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How brave and powerful are you?

How brave and powerful are you?

Souleyman Bah was the first disabled contestant on BBC One's The Apprentice.

But just three weeks into the season he was fired by Lord Sugar and told he was “brave” for being there - how did he feel when he was served up with that cliche from the famous businessman? And what was it like behind the scenes?(*)

The Vacuum Cleaner, aka James Leadbitter, has run his mental health project Madlove for five years. It’s all about giving people a say in what their care should look and feel like. He tells Ouch about his new project where he has taken over a former branch of Argos in St Helens, Merseyside, and turned it into a mental health sanctuary, complete with its own blend of tea.

How hard is it to be green when you’re disabled and have to use more taxis and avoid the easy to use products with throwaway packaging, for instance. Sam Little gives us some tips and tricks on being environmentally friendly.

And we take a wry look at the newly published power list of disabled people from Shaw Trust.

Presented by Kate Monaghan and Simon Minty.

Spread the word, subscribe to us on your BBC Sounds app and say "Ask the BBC for Ouch" to your smart speaker to play the latest episode.

(*) On the podcast, Souleyman said his top moments hadn't made the final edit on The Apprentice. It was also suggested he needed more support. In a statement from The Apprentice, a spokesman says: “The team worked hard to ensure that appropriate measures were taken throughout the production process and one-to-one support was given to Souleyman during tasks to enable him to participate in the process fairly alongside the other candidates. Production continually worked with Souleyman to decide upon and ensure the appropriate adjustments were made at every stage, both in the house and whilst on task.”

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Full transcript of How brave and powerful are you?

jingle

BBC Sounds: music, radio, podcasts.

kate

We’re talking about power this podcast and all the great stuff us disabled folk are up to. Being all powerful and changing the world and stuff.

jingle

Ouch.

kate

This month alone has seen the Disabled Power List 100 released. Lots of Ouch guests made it, including Lost Voice Guy, Rosie Jones and Eugene Grant. Well done if you made it. And congratulations to you, Simon. Oh wait, you weren’t on it, were you?

simon

Six years running and I’ve dropped off. This time last year I was…

kate

What did you do wrong?

simon

I don’t know.

kate

You just got less powerful.

simon

Were you on it this year, Kate?

kate

I’m pretty sure I was…

simon

Was not.

kate

…n’t.

simon

It was a kind of funny old list. However there’s the BBC’s 100 Women list that has also been released.

kate

Oh, am I on that one?

simon

Sadly not. This is a global celebration of the best and brightest women. Well done to fashionista and fellow little person, Sinead Burke, for making the cut. But she didn’t actually make it to the Disability Power List.

kate

So, Sinead was on the Women?

simon

Yeah.

kate

So, she’s one of the most influential women in the world yet not one of the most powerful disabled people in the UK?

simon

Used to be curated, nomination and curation; they’ve moved just to nomination. And then a panel decides. So, listener could you do what you need to do?

kate

For your favourite Ouch podcast presenters.

simon

Or…

kate

Or us.

simon

…Kate, we have to…

kate

Nominate each other.

simon

You’re so powerful.

kate

I think you’re so powerful. I feel like a lot of the people that’s on it generally spend a lot of time on Twitter talking about things.

simon

You’re so middle aged. Have you got to be a moany twitterer?

kate

Well, I do wonder.

simon

But if you actually look at the list there are some professionals, there are some serious people in there as well.

kate

Like?

simon

Several, several. I can’t remember their names. It is a funny old list, but it always is. And the Shaw Trust their idea is get people talking about it.

kate

We’ll talk about it even more next year when we’re on it, hey?

simon

You are of course listening to the slightly bitter BBC Ouch with me Simon Minty.

kate

And me Kate Monaghan.

simon

It’s a disability thing, you know, and you can find all our episodes on the BBC Sounds app which I’m starting to like. Over the past few months you can’t have missed all of the environmental stories and protests taking place, especially Extinction Rebellion. But how accessible is being green if you’re disabled? Sam Little is in Aberdeen. High there, Sam.

sam

Hey guys.

simon

Now, Sam is sight and hearing impaired but is passionate about doing all she can for the environment and will give us some tips on cleaning up later.

kate

Speaking of cleaning up, The Vacuum Cleaner, aka James Leadbitter is here. Hi James.

james

Hi, you guys, how are you doing?

kate

Is it James or Vacuum, Mr Cleaner?

james

You can go with James.

kate

And I know we’ve asked you this before, but where did The Vacuum Cleaner come from?

james

It came from the very first piece of art I made which involved a vacuum cleaner, and the rest is up to your imagination.

kate

But you’re here to talk about your Madlove project, which is all about giving people with mental health difficulties power over what their care looks and feels like.

simon

Cue the music. [The Apprentice theme tune] Now, like me, he was an athlete first.

kate

[Laughs]

simon

What? He was an athlete first, but power athlete Souleyman Bah became the first disabled candidate on The Apprentice. Sadly he got knocked out in week 3 but he will be chatting to us later about the experience.

kate

I wasn’t laughing at Souleyman being an athlete; it was more your continued athletic claims. What have you been up to this month then, Simon?

simon

We had the Dwarf Sports UK Boccia weekend.

kate

Boccia, remind me what that is.

simon

It’s quite complex, Kate, I don’t want to over-explain it. You’ve got little balls of like a beanbag and you throw them to try and get as near as you can as a jack. It is very inclusive: every person can play this, whatever your nature of disability you can play this.

kate

Even me.

simon

Yeah.

kate

Even you.

simon

Well, I am an athlete remember so it’s very natural for me. And in the bronze medal match, under a lot of pressure, my captain said, can you see it. And I went, I could do a spinner. And I went for it and it rolled up and hit the jack. I was so happy. I got a round of applause.

kate

Wow, great.

simon

You’ve lost your enthusiasm.

kate

At throwing beanbags.

james

Well done, Simon, it sounds amazing.

simon

Thank you, James.

james

I’m really, really impressed.

simon

Thank you, James.

james

I can’t believe you’re not on that list of 100 people.

simon

This is the point, athlete and business person, me and Souleyman could be, we’re equal I think on this.

kate

Yeah, being a Paralympic sprinter and throwing a beanbag in a sports hall – pretty much the same, I’d say.

simon

Don’t be so dismissive young lady. [Laughter] There’s me being a patronising the middle-aged man. Sorry.

sam

Have you ever got an injury claim Boccia? It sounds like quite a dangerous sport with a beanbag flying around.

simon

Thank you Sam, thanks. Only my pride has been injured when I tell Kate about it. That’s the worst bit.

kate

I think it’s brilliant. I’ve been along to the dwarf sports events and they are awesome. Just the term athlete that I take issue with. [Laughter]

simon

What have you been doing this month?

kate

I went to Canada. We went to visit Holly, my wife’s grandma, who names herself Super Gran. But what I liked about Canada was all the disabled signs, so all the parking spaces, all the toilets, they’ve adopted the leaning forward racing chair thing which we haven’t got here.

simon

Power!

kate

Power in Canada. And it just makes you feel better. Why aren’t we using it here?

simon

I identify with it because it’s quite athletic. And there was a movement a little while back, because it was more active, it was a bit more positive, I think someone in an electric wheelchair just moving it with their little finger.

kate

Yeah, which is more me.

james

I like it because it doesn’t feel passive.

simon

Yeah.

kate

And I think people would look at it, other people and would think oh, it’s not as boring, it’s maybe a bit cooler.

simon

Yeah, I liked it. That kind of uplifted you, did it?

kate

It did; and it made me think, come on Kate, move a bit more in that chair. And also, come on UK, I feel like we’re falling behind a bit with this stuff.

simon

I see what you mean, yeah.

kate

I think it could be a lot better. And it’s not that hard to change, is it, from slow changes? Let’s get it going. Anyway if you’re an Ouch super fan you may remember a wonderful show I was involved in back in 2014, it’s probably a bit before your time, Simon?

simon

It was.

kate

When we had The Vacuum Cleaner, James Leadbitter on, who describes himself as an art and activist collective of one.

simon

Back then he was talking about his new venture Madlove, and the idea of the designer asylum where people who need care get a say in what that care should look like and feel like. So, five years on where is Madlove now?

james

It’s in St Helens obviously! [Laughter]

kate

I mean, where else would it be?

james

Where else is it going to be!

simon

Is that a good thing?

james

It’s a great thing because it’s a place that really needs it right now.

kate

So, what’s it doing in St Helens?

james

So, in St Helens – sad part first and then hopeful bit afterwards, okay – so St Helens currently has the highest suicide rate in England and Wales, large poverty, community really, really struggling, a town struggling. We were invited to go there by a super amazing arts organisation called Heart of Glass, and we have taken over the empty Argos shop on the high street and for the month of November we are opening a Madlove Take Over. So, it will be a space of sanctuary, of luxury. We’ve also invited 13 artists from around the world to come and put some artwork in that space and work with the local community to make that artwork.

kate

So, sanctuary and luxury what does that look like?

james

We have a beautiful 7 metre table cut from ash tree, so it feels a bit like a luxury kitchen, so you walk in you have a very familiar experience. We have our own blend of tea which has been made especially for us, so you can come in and get free tea. We have lots of little hiding snug places. We’ve got a forest in the ceiling.

simon

What’s the tea going to be called?

james

It’s just called the St Helens Brew I think.

kate

Not men-tea health.

simon

I thought mad hat-tea! Okay, inappropriate starts!

james

No, quite appropriate.

simon

Sounds awesome.

kate

Who is it for?

james

It’s for anybody. Everything there is free, so all the shows are free, so on the opening night we have Touretteshero, Jess Thom.

kate

Who designed it?

james

I have. We had a very small budget so we’ve used cardboard tubes and we’ve used wool carpet underlay to build the theatre and scaffolding. In terms of the design I’ve been travelling around doing workshops with people in numerous mental health hospitals in the UK and also outside of the UK, and in that I have spoken to over 500 people to get them to articulate what their care needs are: so if they’re going to be in hospital what would that place be like to support them on their journeys.

simon

When you say outside of the country were other countries or cultures slightly different or did it come back the same?

james

Everybody says the same thing whether we were in Indonesia or Latvia; people want contact with nature and people want stimulation. So, the senses are stimulated, the sense of smell, the sense of touch; there’s lots to do so you’re not stewing in boredom; and that is in a natural environment, so the value of mountains, rivers, swimming; and that there are people around. A lot of the things that came up is, I want somebody that’s there. Or there are people who are employed who are there 24 hours a day and you can go and sit down and have that chat, have that moment.

simon

Wow.

james

The other really amazing thing is everywhere in the world people have said I want people to support me who are supported properly, so they’re paid properly, they’re not tired and stressed out and everything as well. So, that awareness of the carer’s value.

kate

Why are you doing this?

james

That’s a very good question! I am doing this because my experience of inpatient mental health care has been poor.

kate

Your personal experience?

james

Yeah, my personal experience. I do something and people contact me later and people say, this has had this effect on me, or it enabled me to talk about my own experiences or reach out to my family. Or literally I’ve had messages like, you don’t realise this but you’ve helped save my life. And I go, okay, apart from my disability I’m a white man in a very wealthy country, I’ve got so much privilege, I’d best step up and help other people.

simon

Earlier this year you went into Great Ormond Street Hospital for a fabulously named project, Oh My Gosh, You’re Wellcome…Kitten.

kate

Did Simon say that right? Because I was wondering about the intonation, Oh My Gosh! You’re Wellcome, Kitten.

james

Oh My Gosh, You’re Welcome!... Kitten.

kate

That’s what I thought.

james

I worked at the Mildred Creek Unit, which is the inpatient mental health ward at Great Ormond Street, over six months, so I was there once a week or during the school holidays working quite intensely. That is a ten-bed very specialist ward for kids that are struggling with a range of mental health struggles.

simon

I went to Great Ormond Street as a child every six months for check-ups and I think of Great Ormond Street as physical or musculoskeletal and all that, and I was reading about your work and I was like oh my goodness me, there’s this whole area of mental health, and there are theses eight, nine year olds. A mother recently who talked about her eight year old with anxiety and depression. It’s relatively new to me. Has Great Ormond Street always had this capacity?

james

It’s not always been there. I think it has been there for quite a while, i.e. decades. The way that that unit works is it’s supporting kids that have a physical impairment and possibly a learning disability and a mental health struggle on top of that.

simon

Wow.

james

So, they’ve got very complex experiences. So, they might have problems digesting food and have an eating disorder on top of that.

kate

And so what were you doing with them?

james

We made them their very own art studio. We managed to find a ward and we transformed that into an art studio for them. And every week we were doing different exercises around what these kids would like to see when they look out the window, what smells support them, what activities support them. We took them out on trips, so we took them to John Lewis and we tried every single bed in John Lewis, we tried every fluffy pillow. We didn’t run riot in John Lewis but we certainly had a good time. We went to Kew Gardens to look at the orchid exhibition and think about nature and what they find beautiful. And over the time they came up with I think over 170 suggestions of what they wanted in their perfect environment to support themselves.

kate

What did they say?

simon

Yeah, I want to know what some of those were.

james

It was a really exhaustive list, but we narrowed that list of 170 down to 27 things that went into the exhibition that they made for the Wellcome Collection. That show is called Being Human; it’s being billed as the most accessible exhibition in the UK. So, what 27 things are in that show? There’s everything from they want to control the weather, because it reminds them that they’re alive; they want a swimming pool; they want a multipurpose activity room; they want the smell of lavender, they want the smell of raspberries.

kate

Some of these they’re obviously big things that maybe can’t happen in great Ormond Street. But is the hospital taking on some of these simpler suggestions?

james

It works in a few different ways. The ward is being redeveloped and all of our research and all of these kids’ suggestions is feeding into the brief for that new ward. It helps the young people in the room at that moment in time in terms of their wellbeing, them having a voice and agency. If we take them away they can push the boundaries a little bit, which is super useful for young people. And it’s also helping the staff think about new ways of working. So, a lot of the feedback from the staff was about how coproduction can be really useful in these spaces.

simon

The atmosphere on the ward: I love what you’re doing and I love the art part and I love the fact that these are users who are leading it; but what is the atmosphere like on a ward like that? And then even maybe afterwards, can you see a change?

james

It really varies because let’s be really honest, some of these kids were really distressed, and that was really hard going. But also sometimes we had them for a day in the studio and they were super focused, super calm, super engaged. It’s difficult to say it has a very tangible outcome like that because how do you measure the health of the human mind? I don’t know how you do that. But it definitely helped their group dynamics; it distracted them from boredom. I think it also helped them bond to each other.

kate

And what was it like for you being there and on the ward and stuff?

james

I had some proper amazing experiences, like really funny, silly. I’ve listened to so much Billie Eilish you would not believe, [laughter] all the K-pop things. And sometimes it was distressing, I can’t lie. Sometimes I would come home and get very, very upset because of relatable experience, because of safeguarding situations.

simon

How do you carry on if it’s hurting yourself?

james

Well, I think that’s one thing I really need to learn to do better. There are a lot of disabled artists trying to figure out how to do this. Having my access requirements met to work in that situation, so making sure that I can get a taxi home, that I’m not working the next day; having oversight therapy was really useful so I could offload onto somebody else. And then also the psychological team at Great Ormond Street had input as well, so they would give advice like saying, actually if you’re not physically tired just walk home and mull your thoughts over and just take that time. And then other things like they would say, the reason the child in this situation is not your fault. They kept saying that to me: you are part of the solution here so don’t feel like you’re making things worse; you’re really doing something good here, and remember all those good achievements that you’ve had in that room.

simon

I had a note from something you wrote about, and you’ve just alluded to it, about the measuring of the health of the human mind.

james

Well, I think within mental health more generally the dominant model is a science model. And I’m not throwing that out the window, there’s a place for it, but I think we have to think about the value of art and therapy and good housing and good benefits and all those things that we’ve lost recently because that is the thing that gives your life meaning, will keep you on a journey in a way. So, trying to find the intersection between those things as an artist is super interesting.

kate

Sam, let’s bring you in here, what does good care look like for you, mental health wise or otherwise I guess?

sam

I think the fact that people are talking about it is a huge thing. Because when I first got diagnosed about 13 years ago it just wasn’t even something that was mentioned that actually going through this experience will really affect how you feel and your mental health. I think for me just having safe spaces like you were just talking about there James, if I’d had access to that when I was a 16 year old, just found out that I’m going to lose my sight, I just think it would have made a massive difference to how I embraced life and how I felt and all the decisions I made.

james

I think the thing about relatable experiences is really important because it’s something I can really identify with being in an adolescent mental health ward. And if I’d have met adults that had gone on a similar journey and they had shared that with me it would have given me so much hope and the ability to go, that person’s been on that journey. And then you can ask questions that only that relatable experience will be able to share with you. I really agree with that.

sam

Was much mentioned about social media with the young people that you spoke to? Because I know when I was a young person I got diagnosed you didn’t really have things like Facebook groups or inspirational role models that you could watch videos of on YouTube or anything like that. What were their thoughts on it?

james

Interestingly they weren’t allowed to use social media while they were in the hospital.

simon

Yeah.

james

And that tells you everything that you need to know. [Laughs] We would do supervised Instagram posting but it had to be supervised.

simon

Slightly weird segway: new haircut going on here. What do you think?

kate

What, the Olympic rings that you’ve got shaved into the side of your head there?

simon

Paralympic rings, wheelchair user leaning forward in their wheelchair. I’m calling it my Peaky Blinders haircut because it’s really short on the side and the back and then this big thing on the top.

kate

Yeah, it looks good.

simon

To have a very short haircut you have to go every three weeks. I can’t be bothered.

kate

No.

simon

So, I got these clippers and then I got my family to do it and they were all getting stressed by it. There is a link. James, you’re coming back to London to take over a brand new hairdressers. Is that because you need a haircut? I mean, you’ve got a moustache.

kate

I was going to say, I’d suggest a moustache trim perhaps.

james

Oh wow!

simon

All right, going a little bit…

james

Super spicy in the show now! So, the festival that we’re doing in St Helens we are bringing down to London for the weekend 23-24 November just to share some of the work we’ve been doing up there. So, on the Saturday we have Hwa Jung who’s the artist who’s made the care map of St Helen’s, which is a map of the whole town and all the places you can get care there, she’s going to come down and do a small version of Walthamstow. On the Saturday you can come down to the hairdressers and get a haircut. It’s called Bangs. You can get your nails done.

simon

Do I have to have a mental ill health or can I just pop up?

james

It’s for people on a low income.

simon

Oh okay.

kate

That is not you, Simon.

james

He’s not on the Power 100 list; his income might have gone down now.

simon

Yeah.

kate

You’d say that, but if you saw the amount of money that boy gets from getting disability confident training, I mean, he does not need…

james

Sorry Simon. You can still come along because on the Sunday…

simon

One gig.

james

…we’ve got the Touretteshero knowledge project which is about sharing stories from disability activism, disability arts that have been happening recently, but on a really grass roots way. So, we’re having some podcast recordings that are happening in the hairdressers and we’ve got a super international line-up of people talking and you can come along to that as well.

simon

Awesome.

kate

Including Simon and Kate from the Ouch podcast?

james

We can’t afford your unionised rates. [Laughter]

kate

Damn straight you can’t! How do we find out more?

james

If you go to thevacuumcleaner.co.uk.

kate

Great, because when I’ve been googling Argos and vacuum cleaner [laughter] you just don’t feature, I’m afraid.

james

Yeah, fail.

kate

Yeah.

simon

Keep going with your work, James. I love what you’re doing. I think it’s cool, it’s very cool.

james

Thanks so much.

kate

Now, let’s hear that music again shall we? [The Apprentice theme tune] The Apprentice, one of the biggest shows on TV still after all these years. Simon, a bit of a fan?

simon

I dip in and out.

kate

Well I’ve been saying for hundreds and hundreds of years, where are the disabled people, and this year we’ve had our very first one. Hooray! [Laughter] Candidate Souleyman Bah is a para-athlete, motivational speaker, entrepreneur and the first ever disabled contestant on the show. But after just three weeks it’s all over following a toy making task. Now, before we get to the nitty-gritty, Souleyman I’m really sorry, but we’re going to make you relive that boardroom experience with this clip.

alan sugar

[Video Clip] Now, look Souleyman, quite honestly to put yourself forward to come into this process was a giant leap and brave. Having said that, you’re a sportsman, right, and you know positivity is a very, very strong point in team. And yet you weren’t bringing any positivity to the team. And it’s for that reason, Souleyman, it is with regret you’re fired.

simon

So, what happened? Have you recovered from the dressing down and the experience?

souleyman

It was quite tense actually. I feel exactly the way I felt when I got fired, you know when you get that knot in the pit of your stomach.

simon

It does look immensely stressful and everyone turns into dog eat dog.

souleyman

Yeah absolutely, and that’s one of the things I didn’t want to fall into the trap of. I think it can get very heated and you obviously naturally want to defend yourself. But I think as a businessman you have to stay composed and you can’t go with your emotions. And I think obviously to survive in the boardroom you have to show you’re loud, and that’s one thing I didn’t do, so that’s probably why I predominantly got fired.

kate

I’m so bored of everyone who says, thank you for the experience, thank you, thank you for the chance. I just really want someone to turn around to him…

simon

Screw you!

kate

Yeah, and basically say, all right, here’s what I think about you. [Laughter] Were you not tempted?

souleyman

I was thinking about that. I was thinking of saying, you know what, Lord Sugar, you’re fired. It is a great experience and I think there were a lot of things I wanted to do, I did want to project manage one of the tasks, and I was gutted to see that the next one was sports related. It was just a shame. I think there were a lot of skills and characteristics that I showed which weren’t kept in the final edit. Because obviously there was a huge conversation about disability in the workplace and I contributed heavily in all of the tasks but they only show clips of me telling jokes and… [hooting noise]

kate

Where are you Souleyman? It sounds like you’re in an old-fashioned steam train station.

souleyman

Sorry, I’m just in Clapham Junction.

kate

Close enough, Kate.

souleyman

Yeah.

simon

You say that, and Kate and I were watching it in our respective homes, and I could see it looked like they were edited so you were going to come out of the show. Now, we have two producers of Ouch who are blind people, they have assistance in certain duties and certain things that are difficult to do. We never saw you. Did you have an assistant sometimes in the show and that was just edited out?

souleyman

I didn’t have any assistance during tasks; it was just me. And I think there were times where I did have a disadvantage.

kate

Can you just tell me what your disability is? Because to be honest watching the series it was barely touched on so I am actually not 100% sure.

souleyman

I have a visual impairment called RP, so I currently have about 10% of sight in one of my eyes. And I have something called night blindness as well so I can’t see very well in the dark, and I have to use a long cane to help me get around. I think you saw clips of it in the edits but nothing too much.

kate

No.

souleyman

That’s the thing as well, I had to work twice as hard just to get onto it. There were 70,000 applicants this year and I made the final 16. If you knew what the audition process was like you wouldn’t even apply; it’s absolutely gruelling. It’s like eight levels of auditions where you have to go into Central London, there’s 25 hours of administration back and forth, they have to vet you, your family. It’s so stressful. And I think the fact that I took on that challenge, and none of my hard work was displayed on the final edit just was very annoying and frustrating.

kate

I have to say one of the things that I think is absolutely brilliant that finally, after 15 series, we have a disabled candidate on this show. Other reality shows are also doing their damndest to get disability included, which is great. But the one thing that I find really frustrating is that you don’t see how much harder it is for a disabled person to do the job at the same rate as other people. I’m sure there were times during The Apprentice where you were like, this is so much harder for me, but I want to be the same as everybody else so I’m not going to say how much harder this is. But I feel like we kind of need to know how much harder it is for you.

souleyman

I will say one thing, the production and the behind the scenes team were very helpful. We were in The Apprentice house they’d always ask if I’m okay, if there’s anything I need accessibility-wise in the house. That was absolutely fine, I have no major things to say about that. It was just for me on the actual tasks where it mattered, when we were doing corporate things or where we were making ice lollies, we were on safari, I kind of put myself in positions where I was useful to the team rather than try to complain that this isn’t fair and that isn’t fair. Because I think that’s another people put you down on: if you talk about your disability they say, oh you’re using the disability card to try and justify why you should have extra help. When realistically I do need extra help and extra adjustments to make sure that it’s a level playing field.

simon

And it’s a bit you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.

kate

Yeah.

SIMON

David Blunkett who used to be our Home Office minister a decade or so ago, maybe more, and he was blind and he said, I always have to do a couple of hours extra than everybody else which you don’t see just to maintain it. But I always kind of think if you’re in a team like that did the team sort of chip in? Because I was expecting them to be describing things to you or saying this is what we’re going to be doing. And I didn’t see that and I just wondered whether that just didn’t happen.

souleyman

When it’s such a tense environment like that everybody is just trying to do something so they have something to say in the boardroom. And I think as much as they wanted to help – which they did, like I said, in accessibility terms when we had to walk through dark areas or go upstairs they did help me – but the actual challenges and the actual tasks everybody was just in it for themselves. And I think that’s where I could have spoken up a little bit and went, guys this isn’t fair. But I didn’t want to do that. I just thought, I’ve tried so hard to be here I might as well just go on and see how far.

kate

Would you do it differently now?

souleyman

I think I would. I think I would have spoken up, because obviously if I’d known before I would have said something which would have changed something, which would have meant I would have stayed in the process for a little bit longer. For example, when we made the toys it was designing on a screen which I couldn’t see; it was making the toys, about colours, about so many different things that were visual. And obviously me having a visual impairment automatically restricts what I can do. So, I thought rather than trying to persist in that I thought maybe I could, like he said, be a commentator and tell them what they were doing wrong and hope that we would work as a team to try and fix it. But obviously they used that against me. I think if I did have that help to contribute more into the task there wouldn’t have been a reason why I was [inaudible 0:28:26?].

kate

I wonder if you’d actually said in the boardroom, I couldn’t see it, Lord Sugar, and nobody told me what was on the screen, I don’t think he could have fired you then. The problem is it’s so scary to put yourself out there.

simon

But also Souleyman, I kind of get that bit where you just want to be seen for your skills, and if people are nervous about employing blind people you don’t want to let the side down. Okay, there’s a controversial bit at the end when they’re firing you he said, with regret. And Lord Sugar also said, you’ve been brave because this was a big leap for you to take part. How did you take that? Was it patronising or was it accurate? I don’t know.

souleyman

Oh absolutely. I think he’s never, ever said that to a candidate before, and me holding my white cane and going into that boardroom he’s obviously registered me as being someone of a disability. And then to fire me and say that it was brave of me to come on the show I just felt was a little bit belittling to my effort of not only getting on the show but participating. I don’t understand what’s brave about it. If I’m brave then so is everybody else and why wouldn’t you say that to everybody else. On a day-to-day basis I and many other disabled people hear, oh you’re so brave for doing this, you’re so brave for doing that.

simon

Yeah.

souleyman

And it’s like, but what else are we going to do? We have to live our life and we have to persist. And I think with the audition process bringing in all my proof that I’m a legitimate business person, going through all those hurdles, being on the process, staying till the third week, I don’t understand where the bravery is in that; I just see it as being determined, ambitious, persistent and hardworking.

simon

And you're not allowed to talk back to him, are you? But when he said brave, you could have said, I have been brave because you haven’t given me the right support you cheeky whatsit. [Laughter] That might have been the only bit. Talking about the business idea you were hoping to win £250,000 in investment; what was your business plan?

souleyman

My business plan is called Vision Beyond Sight and it’s bringing in inspirational individuals to schools, to inspire young people to improve their physical and mental health, and also to do some sort of Olympic style workouts. And then the other side of the business is to go into corporate settings to talk about disability in the workplace and do teambuilding activities where they wear vision simulation goggles and play different ball games and work related activities just to get an experience of what a vision impairment is like.

sam

If you hadn’t been the only disabled contestant on the programme, if there’d been someone else, do you think you would have a different experience or different issues would have been addressed in a different way or he maybe wouldn’t have used that language?

souleyman

Oh yeah definitely. I think with the first of anything there are always going to be issues and problems and challenges that get addressed. So, as much as I’m not happy about it I do understand it. This is their first time as well. And I suppose through having conversations like this we can address those issues and address those flaws in language and address those flaws in accessibility and improve it for the next person and improve it for the next person. Same with my education experience: I come from a country called Guinea in West Africa and my first schooling experience was atrocious, they didn’t have any form of disabled assistance, and that’s why my family moved me to the UK. So, I think it’s going to be the same evolution for shows like The Apprentice.

simon

And it’s the true sense of inclusion as in it’s a bit more seamless and a little less clunky as we feel it. You’re lucky like me, you’ve always got athletics to fall back on. [Laughter] You’re already training for the Tokyo 2020 Games?

souleyman

Yeah, absolutely, that has begun. We’re in winter season at the minute, running long distances, pushing trainers, doing all the tough gritty stuff that no one wants to do.

kate

What’s your sport?

souleyman

100 metres T13.

kate

Wow. So, while you focus on the sport is business taking a back seat?

souleyman

I mean, obviously with every extra commitment you add one is going to suffer, so definitely sport is at the top of my list as my priority. But then anywhere I can squeeze my business and do talks and events I’m more than happy and I’m more than flexible. So, I’m going to try both.

kate

James, would you ever go on The Apprentice, do you think?

james

No.

kate

And Sam, how about you?

sam

Oh gosh, it sounds terrifying. I think I might wait for a few more disabled people to go on it first before I…

james

Sam, shall we apply together?

sam

Yes do!

james

I’ll have a panic attack in the boardroom in front of Lord Sugar.

sam

And I’ll guide you the wrong way.

kate

Souleyman, who would you like to win and who do you think will win The Apprentice this year?

simon

Good question.

souleyman

That’s a good question. There are two people who I think have a very strong chance. On the boys’ side it would have to be Lewis who’s shown a lot of good leadership and boldness and just been really good all round. And Scarlett as well from the girls because she’s shown a lot of corporate initiative, she’s really good at talking in the boardroom and backing herself up. So, I think those two have a really strong chance.

simon

Well done for doing it. You wanted to do a bit more and it must be really tough to have that pulled away from you.

souleyman

Thank you so much, thank you, really appreciate it.

kate

Now from one wild environment to another: Sam Little lives up in Scotland and works for the BBC. But her real passion is the environment and what she can do to be greener. We’ve all seen the protests and lots of people are trying to do their bit, but how accessible is this new movement? Now, Sam, you have got Usher Syndrome.

sam

I do.

kate

Tell me what that is.

sam

It’s a combination of hearing and sight loss. I was born with moderate hearing impairment, and then when I was a teenager I was diagnosed with RP, so a bit like Souleyman there.

kate

What’s RP?

sam

Retinitis pigmentosa. So, essentially I have no peripheral vision and I struggle to see in the dark and contrast light and dark and spatial awareness and things like that. Up until two years ago I was a cane user and I’m now the user of Ziggy the guide dog, and I wear hearing aids as well.

simon

Being disabled sometimes you need extra stuff or different stuff. Is that the same with you? Does it make being green very hard?

sam

Yes and no. I think actually having a disability has allowed me to actually be quite good at being green in some respects. One element I would say is you have to be super organised; if you’re wanting to take your jars to your local zero waste shop and fill them up with pasta or whatever, or make sure you go to a market to pick up your loose fruit and veg you have to be organised, you have to have somebody to go with you and help you. And I have to do that every day of my life anyway: I have to think about how am I going to get from A to B; am I going to need food for Ziggy’s dinner tonight because I’m not going to be home till late and things like that. So, in some respects it’s actually helped because it’s already a part of my life. And then in other elements it’s really difficult because I have to get somebody to help me go to that market.

And it’s the same with transport: that’s probably the most difficult thing because there are some days where I can’t get a train or I can’t get a bus, whether it’s just from pure fatigue or the weather’s so horrific that I cannot take Ziggy out in that weather. But there are so few taxi companies that have electric vehicles or hybrid vehicles, so every time I get in a taxi I’m like oh no, I’m killing the planet a little bit more. But I’ve got to think about my safety and my wellbeing at the same time, so I find that really difficult.

simon

I read in one of your blogs every time you book a taxi you ask whether they’ve got an electric car because if you keep asking maybe one day they’ll get it, sort of thing. I quite liked that.

sam

Yes, that’s the idea, sort of supply and demand. I was actually, just by pure chance, getting a taxi in Dundee and it was an electric Tesla and I was like, is this a taxi. He was like, yeah I’m a taxi. I was like, are you sure. I was even more surprised that he was quite happy for Ziggy to get into his electric Tesla because it smelt amazing. I’m still convinced it was a mistake but it was very fun.

simon

James, you were nodding when we were talking about being green and disability. Is that part of your life, is that conscious?

james

My background is as an environmental activist, that’s what I was doing in the noughties, things like Climate Camp and things like that. But it’s something I have to think about a lot with my job as I have to travel a lot. I try to take the train as much as possible to Germany, Switzerland, whatever, but sometimes I’m like I am exhausted, fatigue is kicking in and my body’s sore and I’m getting distressed and I will go, I’m going to get on the plane and fly. I’m always weighing that up between my access requirements and the environment, and there is a tension there sometimes absolutely.

simon

Sam, what got you interested in the environment?

sam

It was actually the campaign Plastic Free July and in the lead up to that as well I was reading about these beach clean-ups. And I make videos for The Social as a contributor, so I was like oh, I’ll go and make a video about the beach clean-up in Aberdeen, you never hear about that. And I don’t know if this happens with you guys, sometimes you forget you have a disability and you’re like, I’ll come along and do that.

kate

Yeah.

sam

And then you get there and you’ll be like, oh yeah, I didn’t think about that or I should have remembered to organise that. But luckily I had my husband with me and one of the other contributors filming, but even then I was just like, oh how am I going to spot things. I remember one time I said to Mike, my husband, oh look, I think there’s a cotton bud over there. And he was like, no Sam, it’s just a stick. Great. So, I was like, do you know what, I’m just going to walk over here, go over my script, I’ll let you guys do the clean-up.

simon

So, you’re doing your personal stuff but how about protesting? Have you considered going on protests? Do you think they’re accessible?

sam

As we know there was a big climate change protest in September fuelled by Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future. I really wanted to go but unfortunately my mental health wasn’t that great at the time and I was like, but what am I going to do about Ziggy; even if I don’t take Ziggy I’ve got to find somebody to look after him; and then I’ve got to find somebody to go with to help me and use my cane; nobody ever sees my cane so am I going to get really stressed; it is going to be really loud, people yelling and shouting. And I know they’re very peaceful and non-violent but it doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a stressful situation. And I wasn’t actual able to find anyone with a disability who’d been on a protest like that before to just find out how they did it. So, I just decided that, do you know what, I’m just going to keep doing what I can. I talk about it every moment I can. It really annoys my friends and family because they’re like, oh Sam’s banging on about climate change again. I use my position on The Social to make content. I come on podcasts like this to talk about it. So, I try not to feel too bad about now going on protests. And I do hope that one day I have the confidence to go and do it or have people that I can go and do it with.

kate

I guess it’s not just having the confidence; it’s knowing that it will be accessible for you and something you are able to do.

sam

Yeah.

kate

I don’t know how intersectional you think the climate change activism is at the moment anyway? Do you think it’s something that welcomes disability? Because I just keep thinking back to the plastic straws debate and how everybody jumped on the plastic straws and it was all about how disabled people were ruining the planet because they were using plastic straws.

simon

Well, there are also the car-free days which you can have and that can be really problematic for some of the disabilities. So, there’s that clash.

kate

Yeah, that means you can’t go anywhere.

sam

And I think this is where the problem lies in that people are being expected to change the world by doing these small things and adjusting their lifestyle; whereas really what needs to change is policy and infrastructure. What it needs to be is an affordable electric car that allows you to drive around and be as independent as you are with a normal petrol car. The technology to provide plastic straws that are made out of a plant-based plastic so people can still dispose of them and use them in a way that’s accessible for them – that’s what needs to change. I’m a big believer in every little helps, but even that accumulatively we cannot change what isn’t there; there needs to be able to be the tools, the resources, the services to allow us to be green and have accessible lives. And at the moment it’s just really difficult. 

simon

James, you turned to the vacuum cleaner there and your work is a sort of protest because you got a bit bored of regular protests. You just alluded to something. So, what do you think of Extinction Rebellion?

james

I’m really happy that a lot of people are taking to the streets. I do think they need to address some things quite urgently, like how white the movement is, how middle class it is, how inaccessible it is. I would love to see Extinction Rebellion doing, if they’re going to take over three or four spaces in central London, for one of them to be much more accessible and for that intersection between disabled people and environmentalists coming together and working together. Because I think what disabled people can offer is that we’re really good at surviving, we’ve got good survival strategies, and as the climate crisis gets worse our survival strategies are going to be really relevant. So, there’s good knowledge exchange there: what can we offer them and what can they offer us and how can we work together better rather than it just being it’s just about the environment and nothing else.

sam

I totally agree with that. You’ve hit the nail on the head: we adapt all the time, we’re always having to just deal with what’s in front of us. A lot of people will say, Sam how can you be bothered to deal with everything you deal with and travel that way. And I’m like, because this is what I do every day, and because I believe if we don’t do this we are going to face even bigger issues. But if you don’t have the confidence or the access to go and join a protest how are people going to get used to people with disabilities, seeing them protesting and finding out what those access issues might be.

kate

A lot of environmentally friendly things cost more money. We’re talking about electric cars. They might not be able to afford to take time off work in order to go to the protest. And with more disabled people living in poverty it’s a double whammy of you can’t access it and also you can’t afford it.

simon

I liked the way you explained it, James. You were saying actually by missing other people out you’re not as well informed as you could be.

james

But also the world’s most famous climate change activist at the moment is a disabled person.

simon

Yes, she is.

james

And that’s really amazing, and she is making it happen.

simon

Sam, do you have some disability and environmentally friendly tips?

sam

The first one is don’t feel bad about what you can or can’t do. As long as you just do one thing that’s amazing because it’s more than you were doing before. I think the second thing is when it comes to trying to be more environmentally friendly, whether it’s changing how you shop or looking at how you travel just be organised. The third top tip would just be talk to everybody about it, find out what they’re doing. It might be that one of your friends is already doing something that you had no idea is something that could be done. That’s how I’ve learned about a lot of the things that I do. For those of you who are guide dog users get biodegradable pooh bags. They come lavender scented and they’re very cheap; you can buy them online.

kate

Nice.

sam

And I guess when it comes to things like events and protests don’t be afraid to get in touch and say, I really want to be involved, these are my access requirements, what can you do to help. Because the more that we do that the more that they’ll bear it in mind when they are organising protests and they are organising events. So, those are my top tips for trying to be a more green disabled person.

kate

Amazing.

simon

Thank you very much, Sam. That’s almost it for this month’s podcast but we do have a fabulous tweet that we wanted to read out. On one of our recent shows guest Lucy Watts talked to us about defying two life markers. Well, it was her birthday recently and she tweeted this:

kate

Today I turned 26, another year of defying death. Not an easy year by any means, but nevertheless an incredible full and unforgettable one. Thanks to all the family, friends and colleagues and medical professionals who have all helped me get to where I am today. Happy birthday Lucy!

simon

Happy birthday!

kate

And also congratulations on making into the top ten of the Disability Power List. That’s a pretty good birthday present.

simon

That really is it for the October edition of BBC Ouch. Thanks to our guests James Leadbitter, Sam Little and Souleyman Bah.

kate

The producer was Beth Rose with help from Harry Lowe and Niamh Hughes. Today’s studio manager was Jack Morris.

simon

Thanks for listening, and congratulations to anyone who made the Power List.

kate

We’ll keep trying, Simon, we’ll keep trying.

simon

You know what you need to do, listener.

kate

Get those nomination forms in. [Laughter] Don’t forget you can listen to all our podcasts on BBC Sounds, email us ouch@bbc.co.uk, tweet @bbcouch, or find us on Facebook. Oh, and Simon, I’ve got two words for you.

simon

Oh yeah?

kate

You’re fired. Goodbye.

 


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