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Ending the awkward

In Britain, we’re used to feeling awkward around each other. It’s practically a national sport. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do something about it.

The awkwardness of others is something most disabled people have to put up with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, talking to a wheelchair user still has the capacity to bamboozle those who aren’t in one, turning them into nervy wrecks who are so scared of not doing the wrong thing that this is precisely what happens.

This scenario is just one of the examples in a new TV advertising campaign launched recently by British disability charity Scope.

In the advert, one of three in the charity’s End the Awkward campaign, a wheelchair user played by British actress Julie Fernandez, known for her roles in Eldorado and The Office, is talking to a male colleague in a work environment. He is faced with a dilemma: does he bend down to meet her eyeline or does he stand up straight as normal?

The second advert in the series, which will be broadcast on national television from Sunday evening, focuses on someone trying to buy a drink for a deaf woman in a bar. The third advert sees an employer working out how to shake hands with a job applicant who is a right arm amputee.

The dilemma in this last scenario is a familiar one to TV presenter Alex Brooker, who appears in all three adverts. Brooker, co-host of Channel 4 chat show The Last Leg, was born with hand and arm disabilities and wears a prosthetic leg.