First-ever Autism Acceptance Campaign at University of Birmingham

Happy Autistic Lady partners with Guild of Students for first-ever Autism Acceptance Campaign at University of Birmingham. Iveta Pudilova (22), University of Birmingham Alumna, is the CEO & Co-Founder of Happy Autistic Lady LTD; a multi-award-winning marketing and consultancy business, committed to creating student spaces where neurodiversity is celebrated. Recently, after competing against more than 400 other entries, Iveta won the Inclusivity Award at the regional Inspirational Youth Awards 2024. This award largely acknowledged Happy Autistic Lady campaigns that raise awareness about autism and neurodiversity at UK universities. Happy Autistic Lady directly addresses a key problem universities face: disabled students are less likely to access employment after graduation, and 37% of autistic students alone drop out due to a lack of support and inclusion, that’s up to 8,000 students each year. Happy Autistic Lady delivers training, workshops, and creative campaigns that empower neurodivergent individuals and raise awareness about invisible disabilities. Happy Autistic Lady is a member of the University’s start-up incubator and has a fully neurodivergent workforce, including two other University of Birmingham Alumni supporting the business, Sarah and Rosie. As a local start-up whose roots can be traced to the incredible community at the University of Birmingham, the team thoroughly enjoyed working with the Guild of Students on the first-ever Autism Acceptance Campaign. Thanks to the support of Dean Turner – Welfare and Community Officer – and Aoife O’Driscoll-Paton -Disabled Students’ Officer- the campaign includes 1,100 branded awareness badges for students and staff members. The badges provide a simple yet effective tool for self-expression and advocacy. The aim is for the University of Birmingham’s 5,000+ disabled and neurodivergent students to feel empowered by their identities and gain the support and understanding they need without having to repeat themselves each time. The badges will be available to students and staff at the Guild of Students from June. The campaign also consists of educational social media content and infographic posters displayed around campus and student accommodation highlighting definitions, important statistics, how to (and not to) respond when someone shares they are neurodivergent, and tips on supporting your neurodivergent friends and classmates! A few include meeting in sensory-friendly spaces, providing agendas in advance for team meetings, and using clear, direct language. Happy Autistic Lady is now looking to partner with other schools and businesses in the region and continue to promote acceptance and awareness about neurodivergence. Happy Autistic Lady is now looking to partner with other schools and student’s unions to create acceptance campaigns for Autism Awareness Month, ADHD Awareness Month, Disability History Month, and others. Iveta Pudilova, CEO and Co-Founder of Happy Autistic Lady commented: “As a small family-owned business and a University of Birmingham alumna, we were delighted to be back on campus. It was great working with the Guild of Students to foster a more supportive environment and seeing the officers’ commitment to student inclusion! When a student told me that Happy Autistic Lady made them “feel so empowered and proud of being a disabled UoB student”, I knew that our work is valuable and needed.’’ Dean Turner, Welfare and Community Officer and Aoife O’Driscoll-Paton, Disabled Students’ Officer agreed: “We’re so pleased to announce the launch of our Invisible Disabilities Campaign, which aims to provide a platform to open conversations about hidden disabilities and neurodivergence.As a part of this campaign, which forms a part of the Guild’s ongoing EDI strategy and cultural education work, we’ve had the fantastic opportunity to collaborate with the Happy Autistic Lady, a new start-up run by Birmingham Alumni. Through these collaborative efforts, we’ve identified key messaging and worked on the creation of various resources, including a selection of badges which are intended to raise awareness of different invisible disabilities. We really hope you like the badges, which will be available to collect from the Guild in the coming weeks.” Subscribe to Ucan2 Magazine today.

Win an Accessible Getaway In The Heart of the Lake District 

Open Road Access, the UK’s leading wheelchair-accessible vehicle rental company, is excited to announce an exceptional competition in partnership with Lakes For All, a renowned accessible holiday company. Planning a getaway as a wheelchair user can involve complex preparation, often leading to less frequent travel. Lakes For All and Open Road Access are on a mission to make travel more accessible for everyone by considering the needs of wheelchair users, to ensure a smooth and relaxing getaway. This extraordinary opportunity offers one lucky winner an unforgettable stay at the newly built and fully accessible Rose Cottage in the heart of Lake District in Hackthorpe, Cumbria.  “We are thrilled to collaborate with Lakes For All and offer this incredible opportunity,” says David Dew-Veal, Director of Strategy & Innovation at Proximo Group, the parent company of Open Road Access. “Rose Cottage provides the perfect blend of luxury and accessibility, ensuring everyone can enjoy the stunning beauty of the Lake District.” What prize can be won in the competition? The prize includes a 3-night weekend or a 4-night midweek escape at Rose Cottage, valued at over £1000. Additionally, Open Road Access will provide a wheelchair-accessible vehicle for the duration of the stay, ensuring wheelchair users can enjoy this getaway without limits. The stay can be enjoyed between 1st of October 2024, and 30th of April 2025 (excluding peak periods, like Christmas). What makes the Rose Cottage accessible? Rose Cottage offers stylish and accessible accommodation in the Lake District National Park. This newly built modern luxury retreat comfortably sleeps up to seven guests across three spacious bedrooms. The cottage is designed with wheelchair users in mind, with its excellent accessibility features that enable easy movement throughout. The features include level floors, a wheelchair access ramp, extra-wide entrance door, widened hallways with sliding barn-style doors, and underfloor heating with individual room controls. Additionally, the cottage boasts a kitchen with a motorised worktop, an accessible bedroom with a profiling bed and ceiling hoist, an adjoining wet room, and a spacious living room with a sensory corner.  How to enter the prize draw “Complete the short form on the Open Road Access website before 2nd of August at 23:59 for your chance to win this incredible getaway. Good luck!” adds David Dew-Veal.   Enter the prize draw on:  Discover more about Rose Cottage: Find out more about Open Road Access: Subscribe to Ucan2 Magazine today to stay informed on all the latest news, information and advice.

Creating a connection – the importance of community for disabled people

By David Ashton-Jones, Chief Executive of Homes Together Having a sense of community and connection is essential for happiness and mental well-being. It’s at the heart of all our lives – it supports us, gives us a sense of belonging and defines our identities. Sadly, simple community activities like going out with friends, to events or just to the shop are still a real challenge for many disabled people. From minimal transport options to actual physical barriers, engaging with the communities they live in can be extremely challenging.  At Homes Together we care for adults living with disabilities in homes in Harrogate, Knaresborough, Ripon and Gateshead. And we’ve made it our mission to not only meet their practical needs, but also to enrich their emotional and social lives and promote independence. That’s because we believe everyone should have the chance to build essential connections with their local communities. The benefits of community for disabled people Being part of a community gives a sense of belonging, as well as the chance to take part in the simple joys of normal life. This in turn reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness – things that can often be exacerbated for disabled people. Community also brings help from peers and friends, whether that’s emotional support, encouragement or simply a sense of togetherness. All of this contributes to improved mental health and wellbeing. Social inclusion is an essential aspect of community participation. It goes beyond just occupying the same space; it involves acceptance and building relationships with others. Feeling like you belong in this way is fundamental to overall wellbeing for everybody.  There’s a practical advantage too. Integrating disabled people into their communities is a vital tool for overcoming the day-to-day challenges of accessing local amenities – like going to shops and restaurants.  Bringing communities together at Homes Together Having a hobby has been strongly linked to happiness and well-being, so it’s vital that everyone, regardless of their abilities, is able to pursue their passions.  Our team supports our service users to be independent, helping them to enjoy a wide range of interests and activities and become part of their local communities. This means that they can live a fulfilling life in a way that improves their mental and physical well-being. We do this by giving them access to different types of activities and outings, like trips to local leisure centres, parks or restaurants, painting, or pottery workshops, or even singalongs with a choir. We’re particularly keen on physical activities like swimming (a great low-impact exercise for those with limited mobility), fitness classes and scuba diving, for example.  Why do we do this? Because we want to offer everybody, whatever their abilities, the chance to live life to the fullest. One of the ways we’re making this happen is by offering sponsorships to organisations that cater for people with different needs – so we have plenty of options available for anyone who wants them. How community interaction can transform society as a whole Making amenities accessible to all will benefit everyone, not just the six million disabled people in the UK. How? By giving non-disabled people, a better understanding of the unique challenges that disabled people face every day.  It also breaks down stereotypes and bias. And this encourages acceptance and inclusion, plus social empathy. That can only be a good thing. It doesn’t end there either. Caregivers who champion education and awareness from the ground up can be truly transformative, promoting shifts in cultural attitudes. This can in turn lead to concrete improvements in services, policies, and infrastructure, which benefit all of society. The future’s bright It’s clear that being part of the local community is vital for disabled people. The benefits of access to support networks, improved social inclusion and the chance to develop more independence can’t be overstated.  That’s why we at Homes Together will continue to build connections with the communities we live and work in. Our ultimate goal? To create a more inclusive and accessible environment for all. Subscribe to Ucan2 Magazine today

Canny Grouse Barn: An Accessible Retreat in the Yorkshire Dales

Nestled within the picturesque Yorkshire Dales, Canny Grouse Barn offers a unique blend of accessibility and rustic charm, making it an ideal getaway for holidaymakers, especially those with mobility needs.  Part of Yorkshire Hideaways’ collection of beautiful holiday properties, Canny Grouse Barn is a testament to thoughtful, inclusive design and meticulous attention to detail. Situated in the quaint village of Kirkby Stephen, the converted barn seamlessly blends countryside tranquility with modern amenities, including a purposely designed wet room, electric bed, and moveable kitchen units. These features provide wheelchair users with both independence and a much-needed escape to the country with family and friends. Its single-storey layout and step-free access ensures that every guest can enjoy the stunning views and serene environment without any hindrance. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by a welcoming courtyard garden, perfectly landscaped for easy navigation and relaxation. The barn’s interiors reflect a perfect balance of traditional charm and contemporary convenience, with spacious, open-plan living areas that are both cosy and functional. The well-equipped kitchen features rise-and-fall worktops, making meal preparation comfortable for everyone. The surrounding area offers numerous accessible trails and pathways, allowing guests to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the Yorkshire Dales. For those looking to enhance their outdoor adventures, the barn offers the option to hire a Terrain Hopper. This impressive mobility power scooter, designed with distinctive looks and extreme off-road capabilities, ensures that everyone can explore stunning landscapes with ease.  Canny Grouse Barn stands out as a beacon of inclusivity and comfort in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Whether you’re looking to relax in the charming interiors or explore the breathtaking countryside, Canny Grouse Barn offers an unforgettable experience for all.  Bookings can be made through Yorkshire Hideaways (either on the website or by calling 01969 600600 or by emailing, where the friendly and knowledgeable team is always ready to help you plan the perfect stay. Embrace the beauty and tranquility of the Yorkshire Dales with a stay at Canny Grouse Barn – where comfort, accessibility and stunning scenery come together to create the perfect holiday. This property sleeps 6 from £790 for 3 nights. 7-night breaks from £972. Want to stay up-to-date with the latest accessible holiday retreats? Subscribe to Ucan2 Magazine today

Loneliness in people with intellectual disability

Loneliness can be described as a lack of social relationships and an emotional reaction to an unmet need for social connection. Despite societal changes taking place over the past decades which enabled a shift from large institutional residential settings to increasingly customised community-based support, research has shown that feelings of loneliness are considerably more common in people with a learning disability in comparison to the general population, with some studies reporting it to be as high as 73 %. It is also commonly known that there are multiple negative mental and physical health outcomes associated with loneliness, such as depression, cardiovascular disease, and chronic health conditions. At the heart of the problem is that social relationships are generally considered to be an important prerequisite for well-being and quality of life. As such, it is an issue that merits specific attention from policymakers and service providers. As organisations in the disability sector, we need to continuously ask ourselves whether we are doing enough to support people to form and maintain meaningful connections. At Positive Support Group Limited (PSG), an organisation providing a range of services related to improving the quality of life and wellbeing for people with learning disabilities, we are conscious that social relationships are intimately connected to quality of life and wellbeing for the people we support. Moreover, we believe that supporting people in this aspect of their lives is crucial from a human rights perspective. The perception of having a meaningful life itself has been shown to help people maintain social connections and promote participation in social activities. At PSG, one of our most important tasks is to get to know our clients to understand what their hopes, dreams and aspirations are, which helps us further customise our support. This may for example involve assisting them to maintain close contact with existing networks, such as family members and friends. In our experience, there are particular times in life when focussed support in this area may be particularly relevant. For example, we need to be extra vigilant during times of important life transitions, such as when a person moves from their family home into a supported living residential setting, as this sometimes leads to discontinuity of regular contact with family members. It is therefore crucial that we as service providers are prepared for this so that, if necessary, we can act as intermediaries, facilitating routines and encouraging contact from both sides. For service providers it is also important to remember that as long as people with learning disability attend school, daily interactions with friends are often a natural part of life. However, when school ends, this opportunity for contact often also ends abruptly. Many people may therefore need support to maintain regular contact with the friends they met at school. This is especially important because the friends made at such a formative age can often be people to which we form a particularly strong bond and with whom we may remain close to throughout life. Finally, we need to be continuously aware of our duty to do everything that we can to ensure that the people we support are afforded the same rights to full participation in society, with equal opportunities to meet connections such as friends, colleagues and romantic partners, as people without disabilities. We, therefore, support clients with customised employment, offer specific support relating to dating, and friendship groups, and facilitate regular participation in activities and hobbies according to our clients’ wishes and preferences. Ultimately, we must never forget that forming loving and lasting bonds with others is a basic human need and human right, one which we at PSG feel privileged to play a role, together with the people we support and the rest of society, to protect. For more information, please visit Subscribe to Ucan2 Magazine and never miss an update.

Bring People Home from Psychiatric Hospital Manifesto published

Bring People Home from Psychiatric Hospital Manifesto published during Learning Disability week For the first time, people with learning difficulties and autistic people with lived experience of psychiatric hospital detention have come together to set out our demands to the political parties wanting to form the next Government. Free Our People Now – Inclusion London has launched Manifesto Asks – Bring People Home from Psychiatric Hospital – Inclusion London.     We are calling for urgent action to stop, once and for all, the scandal of 2000 people with learning difficulties and autistic people being locked up in hospital We call on all political parties and prospective parliamentary candidates to pledge their support for our manifesto demands and to do what is needed to end this scandal by stopping locking us up and moving us from hospitals to living in the community and having fulfilled lives. We are demanding: ·    A powerful say on how to keep us out of psychiatric hospitals ·    Our rights to live decent lives in our communities. ·    To be treated with respect and protected from abuse everywhere. “There is no reason why any future Government should continue to fail to meet its targets and make a commitment to move people from hospitals into their own homes.” “£534 million, which is currently spent to keep us locked up, could be used instead to invest in a national plan to move everyone into their own homes rather than locking us up and throwing away the key. It’s a national scandal that must end once and for all.” Says Simone Aspis,mFree Our People Now Manager. For more information about Free Our People Now and how to contact Simone Aspis get in touch: Telephone number 0203-327-0333 / Office number 0207-237-3181 Ucan2 magazine is dedicated to bringing you the latest news, information and advice on disabled living. Make sure to subscribe for free today and never miss an update.

Nearly half of disabled people feel forgotten by political parties 

With just one week to go until the General Election, political parties appear to be fighting for every vote, but according to new research* by the national disability charity Sense, many disabled people feel they have been forgotten by our politicians.  In a poll of 1,000 people with complex disabilities** in the UK, nearly half (47 per cent) said disabled people and the issues they face were not important to political parties. The same number claim politicians don’t do enough to engage disabled people to secure their vote.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, as many as one in four (26 per cent) said they were not optimistic that life would improve for disabled people under a new UK government. A third (33 per cent) believe their vote won’t make a difference to disabled people’s lives, which puts disabled people off voting.   Despite this, more than three quarters (76 per cent) of disabled people say they still plan to vote, even though nearly a quarter of those (21 per cent) are yet to decide who to vote for.  There are 16.1 million disabled people in the UK, making up 24 per cent of the UK population, and a disproportionate number live on a low income or in poverty. Disabled people experience long waiting periods for benefits eligibility decisions and are more likely to use resources such as food banks.   The national disability charity Sense is calling for disabled people to be prioritised by the next UK government. They have produced a manifesto for political candidates, called ‘A Plan for Change’, outlining how the next government can improve the lives of disabled people, focusing on seven key recommendations:  1.     Make sure disabled people can afford the essentials.  2.     Fund social care so no disabled adult goes without support.  3.     End the postcode lottery of social care for disabled children.  4.     Give every disabled child equal access to education.  5.     Make the benefits system work for disabled people.  6.     Tackle barriers to work.  7.     Always have a senior Minister for Disabled People.  Sense Chief Executive, Richard Kramer, said:  “It’s a disgrace that disabled people, and the societal inequalities they face, have received so little attention by politicians during the election campaign.  “It’s unsurprising, then, that so few disabled people believe that life will improve under a new UK government.  “But it must improve. The pandemic and the subsequent cost-of-living crisis has exacerbated many of the problems that disabled people and their families already faced.   “Disabled people are struggling to pay for essentials like food and energy. The social care sector, which so many depend on, is in crisis, and the welfare system is in urgent need of reform.  “Whoever forms the next UK government must show disabled people that they do matter to them.”  Case study:   Mohammed Azeem, 39, from Smethwick, West Midlands, is visually impaired. He first voted in the 2005 general election, as soon as he was old enough, and has voted in every election since. A former party member, he says that political parties aren’t listening to disabled people, and for the first time is considering not voting.  Mohammed said:  “I’ve been voting for so many years and it hasn’t made any difference or brought any change. Even if I do vote, it won’t make a difference.  “Political parties are doing their thing but when it comes to us or listening to our views, nothing gets done.  “Disabled people need to be part of manifestos. At the moment, we’re not being heard, and change isn’t happening.”  More than ten thousand people have now signed Sense’s ‘Plan for Change’, which the charity is taking to political candidates.  For more information visit:   Subscribe to Ucan2 Magazine to stay updated.

Social Care Provider Donate Care Packages to Homelessness Charity

Adult social care provider National Care Group and individuals supported by its Affinity Supporting People services in the northwest recently undertook a meaningful initiative to create and distribute care packages to vulnerable people. Colleagues and supported people donated essential items such as water bottles, tissues, deodorants, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and food items for the care packages. These were donated to the Accrington charity Maundy Relief, which supports the needs of people in the local community. National Care Group empowers people to achieve their full potential and be active in their local community. The initiative to help vulnerable people and support a local charity was the idea of Affinity Supporting People support worker, Siana Rawcliffe. Siana said: “As part of our community engagement, we thought it would be a good gesture to support those less fortunate than us. Maundy Relief is a local charity near our services. “We were truly blown away with the donations received from colleagues. Three supported people attended the charity’s community lunch to distribute the care packages with support from our team. They have all stated it was an ‘eye-opener’ and ‘heartbreaking’ to hear some of the stories from the individuals they met.” Maundy Relief said: “Maundy Relief is very grateful for National Care Group’s help to support people in need in Hyndburn with these super care packages. “We provide a community lunch for approximately 40 people every day and these people are often without the essentials in life – food, water or a hot drink, shelter, and basic toiletries.  “It means so much when our community pulls together to help those less fortunate, and we thank National Care Group for their compassion and humanity.” National Care Group is a social care provider supporting more than 1,300 adults with learning disabilities, autism, mental health diagnoses, brain injuries, and complex needs across England and Wales, employing more than 2,800 colleagues. For more information on the services it provides, visit Find out about Maundy Relief Subscribe to Ucan2 Magazine for free today!

Artist with Down Syndrome offers painting to Princess of Wales

An artist with Down Syndrome, who met Princess Diana and the young Princes William and Harry as a schoolgirl, is hoping the Princess of Wales will accept her offer of a painting to illustrate how people are thinking of her as she goes through her cancer treatment. Fiona Stevenson, an abstract artist whose work has been exhibited in London, New York, Manchester and Cambridge, says that thinking about Kate triggered memories of the happy times she enjoyed when Princess Diana twice visited her special school, Pield Heath House, in Uxbridge in the 1990s. In a letter Fiona wrote to the Prince of Wales with help from her mother Mari she says: “One of the other girls at the school had written to your mother, asking if she could come and visit and, amazingly, she did! It was such a special day. Her kindness reminds me of Princess Kate and I want to do something to give her a little joy every day. “Princess Diana enjoyed her day so much that she returned soon afterwards to join us for Christmas lunch, bringing you and Prince Harry, who both queued up with us to be served our meal. “Even though it was more than 30 years ago I still think often about Princess Diana’s visit and how much it meant to me and to my friends. “I wanted to offer a gift of a painting to the new Princess of Wales to help lift her spirits as she goes through a very difficult time.” Fiona’s bold energetic paintings have been praised by master printer Kip Gresham who has collaborated with Terry Frost and Elizabeth Frink. And visual artist and associate lecturer at Central St Martins, Susan Aldworth describes Fiona as ‘a maker of beautiful marks.’ See some of Fiona Stevenson’s work, and view her virtual galleries, here:  View our digital magazines here.