Category Archives: Emma’s Blog

Updates on my life and upcoming blog content

This week I thought I’d give you an update on some life events and what plans I have for this blog in the next few weeks.

My Updates

Firstly, back in March, I wrote a blog post, Hunting for a media career, that looked at different internships I was aiming to apply for. The bad news is I was rejected for the ITV News Traineeship. I’m still waiting on The Guardian placement and the BBC Journalism Trainee Scheme. On Monday, I completed an application for a BBC Communications Training Scheme. The good news is I’m on the waiting list for a placement on the Change 100 internship scheme. On Tuesday I received an email from them with a list of placements currently open to successful applicants. I’ve given my interest to a marketing intern position at a hotel & resort company in London. I should find out if I’m accepted for the job sometime next week hopefully!

Secondly, you may remember, back in December, I wrote, My Top 20 experiences of weird, stupid and shocking behaviours of people working in the care Industry. Well since all these disastrous experiences of care, I’ve had to have my Mum take over my care for the past 6 months. However this all changed on Monday when I finally got a new live-in carer. Unfortunately due to my poor care budget, I cannot afford live-in care full time so I’m having to alternate a two week rota between the live-in carer and my Mum. It’s not the perfect solution but it is a good start to regaining my independence.

Lastly, after publishing my blog post on 10 inaccessible high street stores in the UK, I shared the post to all stores mentioned on Twitter. Within 24 hours, two stores, Pets at Home & Next, replied to my tweet apologising for the inconvenience and will pass on my concerns to the relevant departments. It’s not much to go on at this stage but it is a slow start to improvement.

Upcoming Blog Content

I am building up a list of ideas for new blog posts for the next few weeks:

1. A list of recommended game skills on Amazon Alexa

2. 10 interesting music blog posts

3. Music band interviews curtesy of Stencil PR

4. New album reviews: Arctic Monkeys & Snow Patrol

5. Review: Foo Fighters at London Stadium (23/06/2018)

6. Disability-related interviews and guest posts (TBC)

7. And likely some disability stories, banter and personal rants!

If you have any suggestions for other blog topics or would like to be interviewed or be a guest blogger, please feel free to share your ideas or interest in the comments box or on social media.

Blog Survey

As some of you may already have seen, I created a survey to find out your thoughts on my blog so far. I would really appreciate it if you could fill this out and share your feedback. This data will help improve the quality and quantity in this blog: Fill out survey >>>

And finally, I would just like to say a BIGTHANK YOU to everyone who has supported this blog so far. Thanks for all the likes, comments, shares, mentions and followers. I’m really enjoying creating this blog and I hope you continue to read it!

Like Rock For Disability on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @P94Emma, follow me on Pinterest or use the Contact Form.

10 inaccessible high street stores in the UK

Growing up I’ve loved a bit of retail therapy. But more recently I’ve noticed this has become less enjoyable and more stressful due to inaccessibility for disabled people in high street stores. From narrow aisles to products blocking areas and sometimes literally no room for a wheelchair at all. Here I want to share my experiences of trying to access certain shops, the difficulties I faced and what should be done to improve accessibility:

The Range

This is a home and garden store that sells things like furniture, lighting, home decorations and garden plants. I went into the Basingstoke store earlier this week and struggled to get through the aisles due to stacks of shopping baskets and some piles of products sat at the end of aisles. This caused me more difficulty to enter and exit certain aisles without hitting them. I would prefer all shopping baskets were placed at the entrance of the store where customers can pick one up when they enter the store rather than have them scattered throughout the store. Also, all products should be on shelves rather than piled on the floor. Ironically, their accessibility in the store was poor yet they had plenty of disabled parking spaces.

Claire’s & Accessorize

These stores sell jewellery and fashion accessories including scarves, hats and handbags. Unfortunately most of these stores are in small locations with products spread throughout, giving very little or no room for a wheelchair. On occasions when I’m looking for a particular product, I tend to wait outside while my PA or friend goes in to look for me. I find this unfair as I should have the right to go into any shop I want and if I wasn’t accompanied, I would not visit the store at all. Due to this, I haven’t visited either of these stores for several years. Not having reasonable adjustments for disabled people is causing them to lose customers.

Pets at Home

For me, this store is a necessity because I need to buy essential items such as food and litter for my pet rabbit, Mickey. The most irritating thing in this store is every aisle has products piled in the centre making it difficult for my wheelchair to get past. A number of times, my PA has moved things to the side of the aisle to help me get through. However we do not return them back as a silent protest they shouldn’t be put there. The simple solution is to not have products on the ground and have everything on shelves. I do not wish to change pet stores because Pets at Home is where I purchased Mickey, he is used to their products and I have a loyalty card that gains me discount vouchers and raises money for animal charities.

The Works & WHSmith

Both these stores are known for selling books and stationary. I find these shops crammed full of stuff and have very little or no room for wheelchairs. I admit I don’t shop in these stores very often as I can’t read books, due to my poor eyesight, and prefer to download audiobooks instead. However there are occasions I look for something like a cook book or accompany a friend who needs to find something in these stores and I’ve had to sit in the largest aisle or wait outside while my friend or PA searches the shop. It feels like disabled people aren’t welcome. It’s all good having level access or ramps but wheelchair users still need to negotiate in the shop too.

Clintons

Clintons is a greeting cards and gift shop. With this store, the aisles are far too narrow for wheelchairs. If there is another customer in the same aisle I have to wait until they are gone before getting through. If the shop is too busy, I tend to wait outside while my friend or PA goes in for me. Nowadays, I tend to order greetings cards online but this can be more expensive.

Next

Next is a clothing store. I used to love browsing their collection of clothes. However, more recently I’ve noticed their store seems to cram clothes all over the place, giving limited room for wheelchairs. I would rather they had aisles of clothing with enough space for wheelchairs to go through.

HMV

HMV is a home entertainment store that sell CD’s, Vinyls, DVD’s, Blu-Rays and computer games. I love going in there for cheap DVDs and box sets. Again their aisles are hard to negotiate in wheelchairs. At their checkout desk, they have piles of products opposite the tills which makes it difficult for me to get through when queuing to pay. In addition, a store in Portsmouth has two levels but no lift for me to get upstairs. I have to wait downstairs while my PA or friend goes upstairs for me. You would have thought something as simple as a lift would be a must in this day of age?!

Tiger

Tiger is a stationary shop that sells everything from notebooks, pens, bags and decorations. Unfortunately they are laid out like a one way maze, making it very hard to get round in a wheelchair. I would rather they lay it out like the store Paperchase, who sell similar products, and have products on shelves at the sides of the store and a few square shaped storage shelves (not sure on the exact name) that people in wheelchairs can walk around with ease and view and pick up products in easy reach.

I understand all these examples may seem similar but it proves the same problem; there are limited space for disabled customers. I know many people may say if you can’t access the store, just order online. This is a perfectly reasonable piece of advice but it also emphasises disabled people are better off at home than in the community. What if we want to see or try out products before purchasing or simply want to go out and spend time with other people while browsing the shops? Plus in some cases of online shopping, deliveries could take days and if you needed something urgently, you should be able to pop to the shop like everyone else.

It is fair to say more improvement definitely needs to be done to tackle accessibility in shops. Are you disabled and have experienced similar barriers when shopping? Please share your stories in the comments box below. Or maybe you work in retail and inspired to make changes in your stores, get in touch!

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Broken Biscuits: Creating independence to disabled animals

A majority of the time, most people associate disability to humans and there are many charities that are dedicated in supporting people with disabilities. But what about animals that are disabled? You always come across stories of a dog losing a limb or a cat with sensory impairments. Don’t they deserve the same treatment and support as disabled people do? This is where Broken Biscuits comes in!

Broken Biscuits is a registered charity, founded in 2014, who provide custom made carts, wheelchairs and other mobility aids to help injured dogs and cats live a normal, happy life. They also give medical care to animals with hidden illnesses. They also receive foster care and help in finding them forever homes.The charity is based in Surrey but they also have team members in the Midlands , Shropshire, Ealing, Wimbledon, Wales and Scotland.

I came across this charity when they appeared on daytime programme This Morning, earlier this week. Tim Giles, who runs the charity, along with his wife Cassie, joined the sofa with dog, Otto, who uses a wheelchair because he lost his back legs in a road accident, and Ziggy the cat, who is deaf, has minor brain damage and epilepsy. I particularly loved Otto’s set of wheels and a number plate with his name on displayed at the back. Plus he has much better reversing skills than I do in my wheelchair.

After watching this, it inspired me to write a blog post about them and find out more on their goals and achievements. I got in touch with the charity and they were happy to provide me with further information:

1. Why is the charity called Broken Biscuits?

We are called Broken Biscuits because so often our animals are just like that; broken biscuits left sat on the plate, not chosen or passed over in preference for the perfect one. 

They are just as good if not better than good in our eyes. They have quite often overcome personal tragedies and learnt to adapt swiftly with such amazing attitudes too. Working in rehabilitation for animals, amputees or those who need help building muscle mass back etc. It really is such a joy. Seeing just how determined and happy they are to learn new ways to get back up on their feet again is inspiring. 

Their is a misconception that they will be sat on the floor, just watching their lives waste away. But  this is not true at all, they don’t get depressed thinking of what they have lost. They come out of the clinics with an incredible desire to find new ways to live. 

When we provide them with these tools to give them back their independance the feeling of joy is mutual. We absolutely LOVE seeing them take their first steps in the wheelchairs. We feel really passionate about cheerleading their right to do it. Some people are quick to dismiss them this recovery and suggest their lives will be a poorer existence.  Quality of life is thrown at them so often with little or no experience of what is possible before saying it. We encourage people to look at any number of our dogs films of them racing along the beaches, in all terrain wheels, wheeling around the parks, climbing down mountains and round steep corners. Anything is possible with the right equipment. Limb loss should not have to mean they lose their lives at all. 

2. How many animals have you rescued in total so far?

We have not sat down to work out the numbers , but we believe if we went through the recirds it would be in the thousands . Taking responsibility for cats or dogs that are homeless or surrended to us is just part of what we do . Providing the mobility equipment and funding vet care is a big part too. We also fund spay and neuter programmes and vaccination drives as well. 

3. Do you only care for dogs & cats or do you care for a range of animals (e.g rabbits, guinea pigs, horses etc)?

We are happy to help any animal. So yes we aren’t exclusive to dogs but it is easily the animal we get most requests to help. In the past we have helped pigs, donkeys, rabbits and cats.

4. How many countries have you rescued animals from?

Happy tails the shelter we support is based in Bosnia. So alot of our efforts go here and to surrounding countries: Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Bulgaria & Ukraine. We also work in Morocco exclusively at SFT shelter who have the largest amount of disabled animals in Africa and also we work in Romania. This is where our dog Otto was found. There is an amazing homeless animal hospital here called the ‘Centre of Hope’ and it is exactly that; A unique place for  animals who without it wouldn’t be able to get the medical attention they so desperately need. The vets and vet techs who work here run spay and neuter programmes as well which are offered free to shelters and low income families. Their vision for stopping this endless cycle of animal suffering we share. Without addressing the overpopulation problem we will never stop having to help and home our disabled ones who often lose their limbs from road traffic accidents. Occasionally we send wheelchairs to Thailand or Greece and Cyprus. We rarely say no to any shelter who asks but we focus most of our attention in Eastern Europe. 

To find out more about the charity, ways you can donate and information on adopting one of these amazing animals, visit Broken Biscuits on Facebook.

In addition to promoting Broken Biscuits on this blog post, I will be donating £20 to them to show my support for all the incredible work they do! I hope you can all join me in supporting them too!

Like Rock For Disability on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @P94Emma, follow me on Pinterest or use the Contact Form.

10 Engaging Disability And Mental Health Blog Posts

As a blogger, it is not all about the writing but the reading too. Reading other peoples blogs is a great way of communicating with like-minded people, learn new things & gain advice and also creates encouragement, fascination and new ideas for future blogs. Therefore I would like to share 10 blog posts relating to disability and mental health. Some of these blog posts are more recent and others from a while ago:

1. Marty Festo Global Inclusion Personal Growth by Martyn Sibley

Martyn Sibley is a blogger, co-founder of Disability Horizons, author, businessman, disabled activist and has a passion for travelling the world. He has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and was voted 3rd most influential disabled person in The Disability Power 100 list 2016. In this post, Martyn shares his life goals, encourages others to create their own goals and explains that although there will continue to be difficulties for disabled people within society, we should be thankful for what we already have and fulfil our lives and appreciate what is already accessible to the disabled population.

Read: Marty Festo Global Inclusion Personal Growth

2. My Flat Ass: What Disability Means To Me by Lorna

This blog is called Gin & Lemonade and created by a young lady named Lorna. She has Cerebral Palsy (CP) and is a wife and mother. In this post, she discusses how it is not her condition or wheelchair that makes her disabled but the attitudes and lack of access and resources she needs to live a normal life. She explains she, plus other disabled people, don’t want sympathy or prayed for but merely some empathy and acceptance of their disability and have places accommodate for them.

Read: My Flat Ass: What Disability Means To Me

3. The Effects of Positive Thinking by Confidence First

Confidence First is a blog that shares stories of mental health and addictions. This post focuses on the effects of positive thinking and advises readers that working on positive thinking can bring good things, motivate you to achieve your goals and accomplish daily tasks but also that you are allowed to express negative emotions at times.

Read: The Effects of Positive Thinking

4. Using Mobility Aids When You Have An Invisible Illness by Pippa

Pippa was diagnosed with a chronic illness called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) while at university. She now blogs about her condition and love of theatre in Life Of Pippa. This post looks at what it is like to use a wheelchair when having an invisible disability and how she is judge in society.

Read: Using Mobility Aids When You Have An Invisible Illness

5. 5 Ways My Autistic Son Is A Typical Teenager by Michelle

As well as disabled people writing blogs, relatives of disabled people also write blogs about their disabled relatives. Michelle writes a blog called Rockin Radom Mom, where she shares stories on her favourite music, creative writing and her two sons; one with autism and the other with ADHD. This post describes the ways her autistic son can still behave like any normal teenager.

Read: 5 Ways My Autistic Son Is A Typical Teenager

6. The Language Of Visual Impairment by Glen

Glen is a visually impaired blogger who writes the blog Well Eye Never. In this blog post, he debates how people with sight loss should address their condition (eg blind, registered blind, visually impaired or partially sighted) and mentions how friends and family describe his sight loss.

Read: The Language Of Visual Impairment

7. How I Cured My Anxiety by Leo

Leo (a.k.a The Nerdy Lion) is a blogger who niches in anxiety & depression and shares useful blogging tips. In this post he explains how he cured his own anxiety, adding wit and humour to the piece, and giving advice to others in similar situations.

Read: How I Cured My Anxiety

8. I’m a Monkey…. by The One Armed Wonder

The One Armed Wonder is a blog run by a woman with only one arm. In this blog post, she discusses the way to describe her disability to young children in a fun, humorous and creative way that they can understand.

Read: I’m a Monkey….

9. An Initiative To Sensitize Society About People With Disabilities by Divya Sharma

Divya Sharma is a blogger with a visual impairment. She carries out presentations across mainstream schools to raise awareness for people with disabilities, showing the importance of inclusion and demonstrate the technology used by visually impaired people to work and study independently.

Read: An Initiative To Sensitize Society About People With Disabilities

10. Interview – ‘The Undateables’ Steve Carruthers by Carrie

Carrie runs her own blog Life On The Slow Lane and has Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy (UCMD). As well as writing blog posts about her own life, she also interviews other people within disability society. This blog post is an interview with Steve Carrethers who appeared on the Channel 4 documentary, The Undateables.

Read: Interview – ‘The Undateables’ Steve Carruthers

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Learning disabled theatre’s success with pioneering project in Africa highlighted on World Down Syndrome Day

This week there were global celebrations for World Down Syndrome Day. World Down Syndrome Day (21st March) is a global awareness day which has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. This year the theme is #WhatIBringToMyCommunity. It aims to show how people with Down’s syndrome can and do make meaningful contributions throughout their lives. It attempts to explain how negative attitudes and a lack of knowledge about their potential as individuals prevent people with Down Syndrome from having opportunities to make contributions. It also attempts to empower people with Down syndrome (and those supporting them) to advocate for their rights and opportunities to make meaningful contributions.

For those of you who may not be aware of what Down’s syndrome is – it is a congenital disorder arising from a chromosome defect, causing intellectual impairment and physical abnormalities including short stature and a broad facial profile. It arises from a defect involving chromosome 21, usually an extra copy. There are around 60,000 people with the condition in the UK.

I do not have much of a personal connection to Down’s syndrome. However when I was aged 11 at secondary school, I do remember two 16 year old boys, Gary & Robert, with the disability and I would chat with them at break times and they were both great fun to spend time with and talk to. I strongly agree that people with Down’s syndrome (and any disability for that matter) can all contribute throughout their lives.

As part of my role as a contributing writer for Disability Horizons, I have been given the opportunity to write up a story about four actors with Down’s syndrome who took part in a pioneering project in Africa. I thought it was an interesting and inspirational story that I wanted to share it on my blog.

Hijinx Able to Act project

An award winning theatre group from Wales has launched a pioneering project for people with learning disabilities in Lesotho, Africa.

Hijinx, a charity theatre group that train people with learning disabilities to become professional actors, took four actors with Down’s syndrome to Lesotho to take part in a ground breaking project called “Able to Act”. Justin Melluish, Gareth Clark, Laura Tilley and Victoria Walters embarked the trip back in February 2018.

After an initial visit to Lesotho in 2016, Hijinx discovered learning disabilities are widely perceived as a curse with many disabled children abandoned in orphanages by their parents. The “Able to Act” project presented positive views of learning disabilities that had never been done before. The projects ambition was to highlight to the local communities that not only can people with learning disabilities achieve far more than they think, but they can also work alongside people without learning disabilities as equal partners, and make a valuable contribution to society.

During the trip, they partnered with four local students from the Machabeng International College, which was partly set up by Prince Harry, to train children with learning disabilities from the Phelisanong orphanage to rehearse a new piece of creative theatre, which was originally developed by the Hijinx theatre.

Hijinx actor, Victoria Walters said she felt; “very proud and honoured to be part of the trip and the team and work with Amy and Jon – it was inspiring  and I loved everything apart from the travel! But I would like to go back in the future. It taught me how differently disabilities are treated in another country – but how inspiring the children are there – they were always smiling and positive and just want to feel part of everything. I also loved working with the students from Machabeng International College and Kate, they are really lovely people – it made me think about how we are treated at home and how we can all learn from the children of the orphanage who want only to be loved, to learn and have an opportunity which they all deserve. We should try and help them more, they are beautiful people.”

Local participants performed the final production, titled ’KE LABALABELA HO BA….’ (I aspire to be) alongside the Hijinx actors in a series of open-air performances with audiences of over 2000 people. They performed in 5 locations including the Mamohato Children’s Centre, also partly set up by Prince Harry. This performance was watched by staff from their disability department and the rest of the organisation who were undergoing disability awareness focus training.

One of the local theatre students, who acted in the performance piece said: “I’ve learnt to be more compassionate and accepting of people with disabilities, there is such a need for this project to continue in Lesotho and also start in other countries too.”

Mamello Mokholokoe, who runs Phelisanong Orphanage, said: “All my life I have never watched an activity that has touched my life this way”.

Other Hijinx actors Gareth Clark described the experience as a “wonderful time” and Laura Tiley said: ” We had a great time in Lesotho, Africa. We helped the children who have no parents and need looking after by singing and signing nursery rhymes.”

The “Able to Act” project has been made possible through funding from Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa programme through Hub Cymru Africa, the British Council, and in association with Machabeng International College and Dolen Cymru.

In addition to Lesotho, Hijinx will tour their productions and share their inclusive working methods beyond national borders to Europe, Asia and America.

To view videos of the teams project in Lesotho, go to Hijinx YouTube Channel.

50 Mums. 50 Kids. 1 Extra Chromosome

And finally, I would like to share a video of a heart-warming Carpool Karaoke created by Mothers of children with Down’s syndrome. The video has gone viral and been viewed over 2 million times:

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A brief history of Stephen Hawking

This week the world lost an inspirational figure; Professor Stephen Hawking who passed away at his home in Cambridge aged 76 was an intelligent physicist best known for his work on black holes and relativity. The British scientist was famed for several books published about his work including A Brief History of Time. At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and told he had 2 years to live. However he beat the odds and lived on for another 54 years.

I can say that I’m not much of a science geek and couldn’t go through Prof. Hawking’s theories. However he did inspire me by his positive attitude towards his disability and being able to achieve so much despite his lack of physical abilities. Moreover most disabled people in the public eye tend to be sports personalities. So to have a academic figure representing disabled people brings ambition to other disabled people wanting to follow a similar career.

I admit I first heard of Stephen Hawking, not through science, but on a television sitcom. He appeared on an episode of The Simpsons but the gullible child I was, thought he was a fictional disabled character on the programme…DOH!

Another admiring aspect of Stephen Hawking is his creativity and cleverness with words. For instance, Professor Hawking once said; “I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers. I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go into space. I therefore want to encourage public interest in space.” Ironically he is nearly correct with an increase in natural disasters and the unknown outcomes of Putin’s, Trump’s and Kim Jong Un’s nuclear plans. I have similar thoughts that being here on Earth is becoming more dangerous and depressing and would be great just to evacuate to another planet.

In fact, I believe if Hawking wasn’t committed to his science research, he would be great as Prime Minister and can make vital changes to the health service and equality rights.

I want to finish my tribute by sharing three of my favourite inspirational quotes from Professor Stephen Hawking:

1. ❝One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away❞

2. ❝We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special❞

3. ❝My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically❞

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Hunting for a media career

This week I made the decision to restart my hunt for a job. The internship season has blossomed and now is the perfect time to share my skills to the media industry. I did do some job searching in late 2016 and early 2017, securing some interviews on the way, but no success in securing a job. Then I took a step back from the job search while moving into my first home and getting the house adapted.

Now the house is complete, I can now focus on finding work. I did apply for one internship programme back in January and attended an assessment day in London 2 weeks ago. The scheme is called Change 100 and is run by the charity Leonard Cheshire, who support people with disabilities. This programme is purely for people with a physical disability, sensory impairment, learning difficulty, long term health condition or mental health illness. If successful on the programme, candidates are given a placement based on their academic choices, skills, experiences and preferences. Companies involved in the scheme include BBC, BMW, National Lottery Fund, County Councils plus many more. This year 800 people applied to the scheme, 400 of us were invited to assessments and only 200 will be selected on the programme. I am due to find out if I’m successful at the beginning of April.

In the meantime, I’ve been searching for other traineeships within the media industry. This week I submitted an application for a journalism traineeship at ITV News. It will be a 9 month placement starting 1st October 2018, where 12 successful candidates will be working at their regional newsroom. I hope to work at ITV Meridian or ITV London if I secure a place.

ITV also run work experience placements. Insight Pool is a membership group which allows people to view upcoming work experience opportunities across ITV. Being a member doesn’t guarantee you a placement. Placements will pop up as and when work experience is available.

I have also begun applying for the BBC journalism traineeship which will be based in London. This will be an 11 month programme where BBC Academy will train successful applicants the skills needed in online, digital, radio and TV news. BBC also have traineeships in engineering, business and legal.

In addition, I hope to apply to Channel 4’s training schemes when applications open soon. They include a production training scheme, graduate data scientist programme and investigative journalism.

Another job I hope to apply for include a two week placement at The Guardian’s programme; Positive Action Scheme – Disability. This scheme brings people from diverse backgrounds into the media industry. ‘This year they are looking for people with disabilities to take part in their summer work experience placement at their offices in London.

Here is a list of links to the jobs I’ve mentioned:

If anyone can suggest any more internships, apprenticeships or work experience placements in the media industry, please share them below or on social media.

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