Disability is the last taboo!


I was invited to London to present alongside with speakers: Alexandra O’Dwyer, Director of Communications and Marketing, Scope and Kirsty Monk, Accessibility Manager, Southern Railways and Cheryl Campsie, Forster PR.


This innovative business debate was evolved around on businesses interested in changing practice and thus build a society in which disabled people have the same opportunities as those without – critical in an era of financial cutback.


How can companies, charities and policy makers address the imbalance between the number of disabled people in our society – and representation in work, in the media, and everyday life? We discussed the attitude change – which in an era of austerity costs nothing.


To see through change it will require understanding, team work and communication from all businesses, charities and policy makers to work together to address the prejudice face by disabled people and their preconceived capabilities of securing their career in the job markets.

Together, we must adopt the ‘right’ attitudes and behaviours and embracing talents of a diverse workforce with disabled people making a contribution by working alongside business professionals. Business leaders need to take a collaborative and creative approach on recruiting people with disability and ethic population in the workplace.

The future must be on building an inclusive business development for everyone. The ethos of the business community to address of mis-preconception of disabled people to work alongside business professionals, it would help improve business performance related to talent management, productivity, customer access, technology and embrace new developments.


Everyone and disabled people too must be readily committed to make a clear commitment to ensure that businesses recruit the very best disabled leaders for the future but we are too often we hear that the talent doesn’t exist externally.

Time for empowerment, motivation, active engagement, communication and interaction among businesses, charities and policy makers.

Real accessibility, real visibility!


Diffusion 2010 – GirlGuiding UK

Diffusion 2010

I was chosen to co-facilitate the Diffusion 2010 training weekend around inclusion and diversity in GirlGuiding Scotland, which took place in Netherurd House from 22 to 24 October 2010.  I am also a Guides Leader with a Unit in Glasgow.

The event was opened to Senior Section members from all over Scotland. Our main focus was to explore how we can promote diversity and inclusion in GirlGuiding in Scotland, a number of the activities can be extremely useful for one’s personal relationships or working with people of different backgrounds in one’s future job, thus helping in our private lives and career as well!

The training included:

  • Games and activities aimed at exploring our worldview and belief system.
  • Awareness raising exercises (why people have communication and relationship problems, how to make life easier for us and for the other side).
  • Practical tips how to talk to people who are ‘different’ from us, how to establish contacts and how to deal with potential conflicts.
  • Games and activities around diversity and inclusion which we can run when helping with a Rainbow, Brownie or Guide unit, or generally working with children from different backgrounds.


This weekend was a huge undertaking for me as this was my first time of co-facilitating a training weekend. Although, I have done countless speaking appearances at various events but this was something different – ‘Diffusion’.

On Friday evening started well with a mixture of introductory sessions and team building sessions. One of the sessions, I lead which was on team building activities. Eventually one team won the task and they said it was about communication and logistical thinking. Communication is essential to working in a team, inclusion, respect of others and everyone can make a contribution, no matter how small it is, the information shared among the team will help with the completion of the task.

Roll on Saturday morning was spent talking about ‘Class divided’ and additional needs in GirlGuiding. It was informative and thought provoking asking girls to carry tasks relating to barriers that are faced by disabled people.

On Saturday afternoon, we took the girls out to do wild games. The weather was great, dry autumn day. The first of many activities, we did orienteering with girls. Once again, they were split into groups and yet once again communication, team building, inclusive involvements of other team members. They were being observed closely and points would be awarded or penalised for different aspects of their team engagements. I witnessed mistakes and good co-operation being made with everyone involved.

Next activity was body sculpture, all teams had to performed the best act in accordance to the scenarios given. This was once again, good work and good efforts from everyone.

I think the next activity was the most enjoyable of all the wild games. Each team had to come up with ways of transporting water to the marshal point. No buckets, plastic cartons, bins etc were allowed. It was interesting with what some of the teams came up with – paper cardboard filled with lots of leaves; moss; hand cup shape made of leafs etc. Very creative!

The race started and excitement was in the air! I originally thought that the team who had the paper cardboard filled with lots of leaves would stand a chance of winning but their box immediately collapsed as soon they poured water in and attempt to lift the box. The team were disappointed but they continued with using the bundle of leaf. Meanwhile all the other teams were progressing well. The team which had the moss were transporting a lot of water. Nearing the end, we provided them with polyethylene cup which we cut the bottom off therefore, they had to use their hands or head etc. Once the race was over, we measured each team water collection and the team that had the moss won the game.

Back inside for more activities on diversity, we asked the girls to think about what is different in relation to inclusion and diversity. It was followed by looking at countries in the wealth, poverty etc. The games were thought provoking and created an interesting debate.

Just before dinner, the girls were sent back out to go on a treasure hunt to collect their mystery envelopes in the wild. Most of the girls returned on time but one group got lost finding their own way back!

On Sunday was spent summing about the weekend and how to move diversity and inclusion forward in GirlGuiding Scotland.

On reflection, I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. The girls that took part in the weekend, I hoped they had learned something new that will help them understand about inclusion and diversity.


Equipping and inspiring leaders

RADAR is interested in equipping people living with Ill health, Injury or Disability (IID) to be leaders and influencers in public life, and to take up leadership positions in the public, private and third (voluntary) sectors. That is what our Empowerment and Leadership programme is all about. RADAR won funding in 2009 to deliver a series of leadership events for disabled people, following on from our work with Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Disability Rights Commission (DRC).

A series of four Leadership Development Days are scheduled to run between September and December 2010, offering a blend of skills training and personal development work. They will be open to anyone experiencing Ill health, Injury or Disability (IID) who has aspirations to become a leader and positively influence the world they are living and working in.

I attended the RADAR Leadership Development Day in Glasgow in November 2008, I already had some experience of leadership in school, and from taking part an expedition which saw myself and 9 other disabled young people trekked across the Andes but the RADAR Leadership gave the tools to advanced my aspirations further.

“Before RADAR’s Leadership course, I was lost. Although I had ideas/ambition on what I wanted to achieve, I didn’t know where to begin, and I felt young to be doing things that I wanted to aspire to. RADAR has made me more focussed and confident to achieve the goals I would like to fulfil. I’m now climbing ladders to wherever my career will take me in the future”.

Now two years on, I was delighted to be back sharing my leadership journey at the RADAR Leadership in Birmingham this year. It was fantastic to addressed 100 delegates from all walks of life who experienced Ill health, Injury or Disability (IID), black or minority ethnic backgrounds, people with learning difficulties, people with neuro-diversity conditions (e.g. Asperger Syndrome, a form of Autism) and people with mental health conditions.

My presentation looked at what I have achieved and what the quality of skills it takes to achieved these accomplishments. Furthermore, I talked about myself leadership journey, preconception of ability to achieve goals and times of going through unchartered waters. Throughout the years and while I am still learning all the time, it has been myself motivation, determination and more recently myself self leadership skills that has helped me possess the quality of leadership.

After the presentation, I stayed around to speak to delegates and on hand to offer advices about confidence, leadership advices etc. I met a few interesting delegates and one in particular caught my attention was a Down syndrome women, she thoroughly enjoyed the talk and asked how she could get involve in some of the ventures I do in her local area. Her case study caused my head to think that people with learning difficulties need assistance to nurture their confidence, more information available to parents and support workers about the different types activity involvements these people with learning disabilities could take part in.

They have the right to make choices about what to do and take part in. Its naturally for people to focus on what disabled can’t do however, we need to adopt in a change in attitude on focusing on what disabled can do as I find there are things that I would like to do but it looking at the picture/situation as a whole and it is about thinking out with these boxes and implementing a strategy to coping and participating in mainstream activities.

There is still a lot of unlocking potentials to be done but RADAR is a pilot form to make this happen.

Thankyou RADAR!

The day was truly inspiring for me too, watch this space!


I have been helping BBC Scotland address the diversity strand in the media in Scotland.

It a privilege to announce that the entertainment development team at BBC Scotland is always developing new formats and looking for a diverse range of people to be involved in the process either as stand-in contestants or contributing to brainstorming sessions and focus groups.

They are currently building a database of people who are interested in being a part of that process and as part of our commitment to diversity want to ensure that we are talking to and listening to the greatest range of people.

It’s a small step that is being complemented by the inclusion which aims to improve opportunities for disabled people to get started within the industry.

We are looking for at this stage is to get the word out to different groups that we are actively looking to expand our database of people and if people would like to register their interest in being involved as a gameshow contestant or part of a focus group, then we’d love to hear from them.

If you have any queries about this project contact the development team bbcscotlandentdevelopment@bbc.co.uk

Every year the BBC Scotland entertainment development team is working on brand new ideas to join some of the great programmes already produced by the department, like Tonight’s the Night, A Question of Genius, The Weakest Link and T in the Park.

We often test new gameshow formats and look for feedback on the entertainment programmes you like to see.

To do this effectively, however, we need volunteers to assist with the development process. If you would like to join our database of contestant and focus group volunteers please contact the team and we will send you further details. Contact the development team bbcscotlandentdevelopment@bbc.co.uk

We’d be looking for people to be Scotland-based. In reality most of the people who come in are Glasgow-based but we do want to broaden to the whole of Scotland.

Key criteria for anyone wanting to be invovled is simply to have an interest in television entertainment and to be interested in quiz shows. With that in mind, a decent general knowledge is a good start, but beyond that there are really no boundaries.

Deaf Awareness Week 2010


A Glasgow woman is on the campaign trail to encourage people to take better care of their hearing.

Julie McElroy, who has profound sensory neural hearing loss, has teamed up with local hearing care retailer The Hearing Company to prepare a short educational film on hearing care matters.

The film was unveiled at the Scottish Parliament to an audience including Bill Kidd, MSP for Glasgow, who has also given his support to the venture.

Julie was born prematurely and later diagnosed with cerebral palsy as well as a severe hearing impairment.  She is an active campaigner on disability issues.

She said: “Being hard of hearing is one of the worst social disabilities a person can experience.  My deafness wasn’t diagnosed until I was five years old and without hearing aids I can’t pick up any sounds unless they are exceptionally loud, such as a fire alarm or ambulance siren. 
“The Hearing Company kindly offered to assist me in finding a hearing aid system that would allow me to make the best use of the hearing I have left.

“My speech and my hearing remain the most common difficulties I have out of everything else but I am so grateful to them for the improvements achieved and the positive impact this has had on my life.

“If sharing my story will make more people feel motivated to take better care of their hearing or seek support if they are having problems then it’s certainly worthwhile.”

According to the Scottish Council on Deafness, there are just over one million people in Scotland who have some degree of hearing loss.  The figure for the whole of the UK is around nine million.

Greg Clements, who runs branches of The Hearing Company in Jordanhill and Newton Mearns and also appears in the film, said: “Hearing is one of our most vital but also neglected senses. We recommend having a hearing test at least every two years but it often takes longer than that for people to realise they have a hearing problem in the first place and yet more time to feel confident enough to seek professional help.

“In Julie’s case we heard of her circumstances through a local news article and found the human interest side of her story quite phenomenal.  She has overcome incredible obstacles in her life and we wanted to try and offer some support to help her hear better.”

The screening at the Scottish Parliament was preceded by a members’ debate on deafness and hearing loss.

Bill Kidd MSP said: “Knowing Julie McElroy as I do, being intelligent, hard-working and someone who sees people’s capabilities rather than their disabilities, I was very happy to sponsor the reception to promote deaf awareness and help to bring this to the wider public.”
To see extracts from Julie’s film with The Hearing Company visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3B6AIKp0aG0

For further information please contact Nick Trueman at Seal on 0121 616 5800 / nicktrueman@seal.uk.com

Deafness Debated in the Scottish Parliament


For proof that hearing loss doesn’t have to be a barrier to achieving your goals in life then look no further than Julie McElroy.

Born prematurely and later diagnosed with both cerebral palsy and profound sensory neural hearing loss, Julie is a prolific campaigner on disability issues in her home city of Glasgow.

Recently she has turned her attention to raising awareness of deafness, hearing loss and the need for a structured and disciplined hearing care regime.

Julie teamed up with the hearing aid dispenser who helped her find an effective solution for her own impairment, Greg Clements of The Hearing Company.

The two of them have prepared a short educational film on hearing care matters, which is being unveiled at the Scottish Parliament later this month in readiness for Deaf Awareness Week (28 June – 4 July).

Julie said: “Having a hearing impairment is one of the worst social disabilities a person can experience.  My deafness wasn’t diagnosed until I was five years old and without hearing aids I can’t pick up any sounds unless they are exceptionally loud, such as a fire alarm or ambulance siren.

“The Hearing Company kindly offered to assist me in finding a hearing aid system that would allow me to make the best use of the hearing I have left.

“My speech and my hearing remain the most common difficulties I have out of everything else but I am so grateful to them for the improvements achieved and the positive impact this has had on my life.”

According to the Scottish Council on Deafness, there are just over one million people in Scotland who have some degree of hearing loss.  The figure for the whole of the UK is around nine million.

That desire to help people hear better is now reaching further out into the community with Julie and Greg screening their film for the first time on 24 June at Holyrood.

The screening is being preceded by a parliamentary members’ debate on deafness and hearing loss following a motion lodged by Bill Kidd, MSP for Glasgow. For more information click here http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/scotland/newsid_8751000/8751626.stm

Julie hopes both events will help raise awareness of hearing loss and ways in which those affected by it can access help and advice. 

She said: “We are launching the campaign just before the start of Deaf Awareness Week, which is a well established industry event designed to improve understanding of different types of deafness and the many different methods of communication used by deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing people.

“I know through personal experience how difficult and isolating hearing loss can be.  If sharing my story will make more people feel motivated to take better care of their hearing or seek support if they are having problems then it’s certainly worthwhile.”

To see a preview of the Julie’s film with The Hearing Company visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3B6AIKp0aG0.

Big Issues Scotland

Independent Living Big Issue supplement; “Rights Here Rights Now”.   

You can read real life stories about the reality of independent living from across Scotland and find out what it will take to make rights the reality for all disabled people.

Pam Duncan, Policy Officer, Independent Living in Scotland Project, interviews Julie for the Big Issues Scotland to find out how she hopes to address the media protrayal of disabled people in Scotland. Find out more about Julie’s mission, the next issue is out on Monday 14th June.

Be sure to visit your local Big Issue vendor next week from Monday 14th June 2010 to pick up your copy which includes the supplement in the centre of next week’s edition

Supporting Students To Engage Meaningfully In The Learning Process

Supporting Students To Engage Meaningfully In The Learning Process on Tuesday 15 June.

Julie an IT Graduate has been asked by Scotland’s Colleges to  present a presentation on the role of assistive technologies in supporting students.

This is the first of several network events planned for practitioners who are learning and teaching students with significant additional support needs. The focus of this event is supporting students to engage meaningfully in the learning process. As with most inclusive practice, many of the methodologies and communication tools designed for improving accessibility for students with barriers to learning are helpful for everyone.

In addition there will be an update on what is going on nationally in response to learners with severe and complex learning disabilities and the relevance of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) 16+ Learning Choices to this group of learners.

This informal, interactive event will provide an opportunity for practitioners to share practice, network, identify priorities for future staff development events and be updated on national initiatives which will inform and support their practice.