I Never Admitted I had a Learning Disability………

ShaunI am Shaun Webster, European Project Coordinator in CHANGE. I am a person with a learning disability. From my heart I feel very proud to be working in CHANGE. If I didn’t have CHANGE in my life I would be stuck in a dead end job with no power at all. I would be feeling isolated and small with no one taking any notice of me. Now I feel powerful and equal. In the past I used to despise having a learning disability. I used to hide it away. I used to feel embarrassed about it because people used to call me names and abuse me. My dad was embarrassed that I had learning disabilities. If I said that I had a learning disability I felt they treated me like a baby and a second class citizen. Now I am proud that I have a learning disability. I feel that I am changing attitudes and making a difference. Now I feel like I am not alone. Before I was the only person with a learning disability in my job and I didn’t know anyone outside my job who had a learning disability. I felt very isolated. Moving into Keyring I felt less isolated then I got the job at CHANGE, it felt overwhelming that there were that many people with learning disabilities! Now I feel fired up, I am not scared to speak my mind. I used to keep my mouth shut. Now because of the work I do at CHANGE, I am not afraid to speak out and defend other people with learning disabilities. CHANGE gives me the fire in my heart to speak up. When me and Catherine went to Croatia as two professionals and co workers with a learning disability everyone asked if we were volunteers. We said we were both paid workers and people were gobsmacked! I was laughing and I felt proud and equal like I was breaking down all the barriers. In some organisations I go to its still them and us at the bottom. Now I’m starting to see the change, people like us taking their power. I’m seeing people with learning disabilities being more outspoken and not standing for it anymore. In grassroots organisations I see people with learning disabilities having a bigger say. People with learning disabilities are getting fed up of always doing volunteering too. I talk to people I know who say they work really hard and only get £20. They are asking me, ‘Why don’t we get paid like you do?’ Sometimes they are doing more hours than me and they are starting to question different organisations why are they just doing volunteering? I think organisations are scared of doing the next step. It still feels like it is them and us and we need to get away from that. I think that people are scared to lose power. If they keep us doing volunteer work we can’t answer back. Why are organisations so scared to do the next step? The volunteers in CHANGE feel like they have a voice through the paid workers with learning disabilities in CHANGE. We have our own opinions and we don’t get judged for it. We feel like we are treated with respect like proper professionals. When we are in meetings we are included from the beginning because the meetings are about us. If we get ideas we are encouraged to say them. Workers without learning disabilities ask us about accessibility because we are the experts – we have life experience. We want people with learning disabilities to speak up, sometimes people with learning disabilities are scared to speak up. We feel we might get into trouble if we speak up. This is why we are organising our National Event with Lumos on June 26 for all people with learning disabilities. My dream is to shut down institutions. We want to be a part of society and have a life like you have! The time is now I want everyone to treat us as equal citizens! Guest Blog by Shaun Webster

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