Chloe Tear is in the final year of a Psychology and Child Development degree at Leeds Trinity University and has recently been nominated for The Sun's Unsung Hero at the Who Cares Wins Awards. She is also the Leeds Trinity Students' Union Disabilities Officer, and an active disability blogger who writes about her experiences of mild Cerebral Palsy, chronic pain and visual cortex disorder.
In this blog, Chloe talks about the nomination, her campaigning and disability awareness work and how she is making a difference to the 14 million people who are living with a disability in the UK.
When I first heard about the nomination I was blown away! I received a phone call from a member of staff at Scope who oversees the volunteer work that I do and didn't quite believe her. I have volunteered for Scope for four years, something I have done alongside my blog, and have been able to work with them on disability related campaigns over the years.
Volunteering is often the backbone of a charity and it is an honour to work alongside the members of staff that I do. With 14 million disabled people in the UK I believe it is vital to raise awareness, and it is a role I am proud to have. Not every disabled person is obliged to do so, yet I personally share my story in the hope of more knowledge and a greater level of understanding.
I have been told that it was Myddelton College in Wales who made my nomination after I spent a day at their school helping to deliver the Scope Role Model programme. This involves goes into secondary schools across the UK and talking to students about issues faced by disabled people, the social model of disability (which says that disability is caused by the way society is organised, rather than by a person's impairment or difference), stereotyping and the wider work of Scope.
I also talk to students about my personal experiences of having a disability, support open debate, and will encourage pupils to ask me questions about disability. The feedback has found around 89% of young people feel less awkward around disabled people after a session, which means we're really changing attitudes. It was amazing to be part of a session where one of the students in the class also had cerebral palsy. He too ended up talking in front of the class about his disability which was so heart-warming to see. Previously he had chosen not to discuss his disability.
After I was nominated by Myddelton College, Vicky Pattison, winner of I'm a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! chose to endorse this nomination which really did take things to a different level. I volunteer because I am passionate about the topic and feel it is important that change occurs, I never even thought it would go this far. It is unimageable to think that Vicky went through hundreds of public nominations and chose mine. As part of the nomination, I got the chance to meet Vicky, talk about the work Scope do and have a photo shoot. This was such a lovely experience and to have the backing of her means a great deal. She took a great interest in the work I have done over the years and wished me the best of luck with the rest of the award.
Unfortunately, when The Sun article was published the language used was unacceptable. They referred to myself as "a sufferer" and that I was "handicapped". The article was meant to be promoting such a positive event, yet the wording ruined this vibe. I instantly challenged their wording choices online and asked it to be changed. Thankfully the article has now been reworded but no apology was given. I got the award nomination for raising awareness and that doesn't stop because I have now been recognised. It would go against everything I believe if I was to sit back and let ableist language be used when talking about disability, never mind if they are talking about myself! Even if it goes against me in the final nomination stage, I would rather not win the award if that is the view they have of disabled people.
However, it's extremely astonishing to be recognised at this level and it is something that I am very proud of. I hope the nomination raises awareness around the importance of disability awareness and encourages other schools to take up the offer of the Scope Role Model talks. I absolutely love giving the talks and I believe it will help in shaping the next generation to be more understanding of disability.
The winners of the Who Cares Wins awards will be revealed at a ceremony in October.