‘Hello Boss, Today you look like a Swedish Jewish artist!’ It’s a real joy to come to work and be greeted by Tony, before I even have a chance to take my coat off! No matter how many times I say that my name is Phil, Boss always slips in somewhere, another striking example of the ingrained institutional attitudes people with learning disabilities have towards power, based on their experiences.

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This week at CHANGE we’ve been busy talking about two things; NHS Expo and the national Event: Our Voices, Our Choices, Our Freedom, that we are organizing with the children’s rights charity Lumos. We’re excited, we’re on the move, people with learning disabilities at CHANGE are changing things, taking responsibility,stepping out of the box.What an honour and a privilege to work alongside people with learning disabilities challenging social injustice and discrimination.

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NHS Expo, hosted by NHS England, was a huge health event ‘designed to give everyone the tools and the inspiration to make positive changes in health and care’. People with learning disabilities from CHANGE gave presentations and ran a workshop on how we work and the importance of good communication and easy read information. I witnessed the power and the intelligence of people with learning disabilities from CHANGE making connections, challenging assumptions, giving presentations, and courageously speaking out about their health rights.

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A chance look at the learning disability forum and seeing a conference in Bucharest, Romania, a phone call to Lumos, shared visions and an openness and belief that things have to change started our journey together. We employed co-workers, one a person with a learning disability and an illustrator who work with Lumos. They travel to Eastern Europe making information into easy read, delivering training to policy makers, role modelling and working with young people with learning disabilities leaving institutions, guiding learning and sharing. Back to the UK bringing back lessons learnt. Sharing thinking about closing institutions and how to empower people with learning disabilities in the process so that they are no longer passive but actively involved in their journey towards more independent living.

photoShaun came up with an idea of research led by him a person with a learning disability, on the experiences of people with learning disabilities leaving long stay institutions. Shaun believes in and recognizes the power of sharing stories and history with each other. From the UK to Eastern Europe people with learning disabilities empowering one another and learning through their stories and their shared history of oppression, peer led, supporting their rights and their empowerment. People with learning disabilities using and learning from their real stories to make change happen.

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On June 26th CHANGE and Lumos are organizing a national Event in Leeds. It is led by people with learning disabilities for people with learning disabilities: Our Voices, Our Choices, Our Freedom. A national Event demanding the closure of institutions in the UK and across Europe. It’s a movement for change, the collective voice of people and activists with learning disabilities demanding that their voices be heard and their freedom and their rights respected. We are organizing similar events with Lumos for children and young people with learning disabilities in London and in Europe.

Our Voices event 26 June 2014 flyer-1

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This will be a force for future change leading the way forward by people with learning disabilities themselves. Norman Lamb Minister of State for Care and Support is coming to the Leeds event and people with learning disabilities will be taking their demands to Government.

Please tell all the people with learning disabilities you know about it and please work with us and Lumos to support people with learning disabilities to make change happen.

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