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Learning Disability Awareness: by Kirsty Morgan

Learning Disability Awareness Week (June 17th–23rd) is an opportunity to hear what life is like if you have a learning disability. The focus this year is 'Do you see me?' highlighting the fact people with a learning disability want to be seen, heard, and valued. 

At People First, in my role as Head of Inclusion, asked some of our self-advocates, employees, and volunteers to give a little insight into what their lives are like and what they wanted to highlight and celebrate this week.

Mark O’Farrell, a self-advocate from Lancashire, spoke about how proud he is of his role as a co-researcher on a project at Manchester Metropolitan University. The project focuses on Mental Health and the knowledge people with a learning disability have of the medication involved. Mark spoke of the online peer interviews he has to explore this topic. Mark said;

“I find it rewarding and am enjoying doing it. It is important work. People feel listened to. I have learnt more about mental health from doing this.” 

Mark will be co-chairing a forth coming workshop and be part of developing a tool kit from the research. Mark got involved with this following taking part in some research himself. This had focused on the impact of Covid which was a difficult and challenging time for Mark. The strong connections made by Mark through this involvement led onto this current opportunity.

Louise Calvert has volunteered with the self-advocacy network in Lancashire for the past 21 years shared; 

“I’ve met new people and gained useful contacts from this. Look at what I’ve achieved in the last 21years. I can do it!” 

Louise spoke about the importance of Rights, access, choice, and information. Louise regularly delivers learning disability awareness and communication training to medical and social work students at Lancaster University. Louise said;

“it’s really important stuff, it gets missed in a lot of training. During health appointments staff often look at, and speak to other staff, not the person. People need to have confidence to say no, don’t! They deserve better care and treatment.”

Richard Woods has been a project worker for the self-advocacy network for 25 years and can still remember back to the application and interview process. Richard’s commitment is to be celebrated! Richard said he;

“likes being part of a team and supporting other members of the group”. 

Richard is well known in the community, using local spaces to host meetings and is an elected member on the local Partnership Board, where issues are discussed and actioned. 

Richard’s manager James added; 

“Richard is thoughtful, patient, and has an amazing memory. Thank you for all that you do.”

This is just a brief insight into some of the incredible contribution made by people with a learning disability at People First, within the self-advocacy network they are part of, other organisations and the wider community. Thank you all for sharing your stories with us. Together you make an impressive trio to launch the question 'Do you see me?' and indeed this is the case, today and always.

Kirsty Morgan (Head of Inclusion)