TELLY SOPHIE IS FIRED UP FOR NEW TV MISSION I was rebel without a cause... but after my horror crash I found something worth fighting for
LOOSE Women star Sophie Morgan is buzzing over the famous new ally joining her in her fight for the rights of disabled people.
And she knows she’s found a kindred spirit in Oscar-winning Hollywood star Reese Witherspoon.
Speaking about their new partnership for the first time, Sophie, 38, says: “She’s a badass woman doing important things. It’s so exciting.
“Reese is such a powerhouse and so well respected. Everything she and her company want to do is what we in the disabled community need – changing perspectives of disabled people.”
Actress turned producer Reese, 47, has been behind film and TV hits such as Where the Crawdads Sing and Daisy Jones & The Six.
Now she’s announced her Hello Sunshine company – which aims to empower women by telling their stories – is joining forces with Sophie’s Making Space Media, which champions voices in the disabled community.
Sophie, who was paralysed from the waist down in a car crash when she was 18, says the partnership is perfect because, like her, Reese has always strived to give a voice to the voiceless.
She said: “Hello Sunshine’s mission is to centre women in storytelling and share untold stories. So when I had the opportunity to partner with them, I was, like, ‘Is this real?’
“I want to do everything I can to influence change for people like me. That’s my mission, and that speaks to what Reese and Hello Sunshine are about.
“In their office, there’s a picture saying, ‘Do epic s**t’, and I was, like, ‘Hell yeah! That’s what I’m trying to do’.
“My mum says that before the car crash, I was always a rebel but without a cause. But now I have a cause and that gives me peace, even when I struggle with everything that comes with being paralysed.”
Sophie celebrated a massive victory earlier this year when the Government announced planned legal changes in response to her Rights on Flights campaign.
She launched the scheme after her wheelchair was broken when it was put in an aircraft’s hold.
In June, a report proposed measures to protect disabled flyers, such as scrapping a cap on compensation when airlines damage equipment, and giving the Civil Aviation Authority more power to punish airlines and airports treating disabled flyers unfairly.
But Sophie is not happy that the changes will only be passed into law when
Parliamentary time is available.
“I’m getting increasingly frustrated,” she says. “What
are we waiting for? If we don’t start to see some action after the promises we’ve been given, there will be consequences. We can’t keep waiting… we are in a crisis.
“At the moment, we are trusting the Government, but there’s only so long that trust will last. We will hold them to account.”
Sophie launched her Rights on Flights campaign in January after arriving at Heathrow following an 11-hour flight to find her wheelchair and its battery-powered attachment smashed. She says it was like “an assault on my physical person” because her wheelchair acts as her legs. Her experience sparked an outpouring of similar stories from disabled people, but she claims forcing the Government to recognise the problem saw her branded a troublemaker.
“When I started this campaign, I was told people thought I was causing trouble for trouble’s sake,” she says.
“There’s a sense that when you’re raising awareness, you should be told to ‘pipe down’. But I didn’t go away. I gathered a group of experts and started to really level up in the campaigning.
“It became less about fighting and raising awareness and more about finding solutions.
“I don’t feel the fear of p***ing people off. I’m, like, ‘Let’s just see what we can do’.
“There’s that saying, ‘well behaved women never make history’. Well, it’s true. And I’ve had this
drive to improve things ever since I left hospital in my wheelchair for the first time, because there are so many barriers. “I never knew until then that disabled people couldn’t do things.”
Sophie’s book, Driving Forwards: A Journey of Resilience and Empowerment, tells how she was left paraplegic when she crashed her car while driving home after getting her A-level results. This year, she marked the 20th anniversary of the accident with a trip around America.
She says: “I mark it every single year and this year, I felt I wanted to go all out. I feel like the next chapter of my life is going to be bigger than ever. I’ve got new projects and new plans. It’s so exciting and I can’t wait for what happens next.”