We need to be included at the beginning and forever…

A guest blog from CBM Worldwide about Training delivered by CHANGE in Bangkok 2015

CHANGE and Changes today: “We need to do action, and now!” (Shaun, CHANGE UK).

No more plastic water bottles, but jugs with water (the David effect)! Then, the most inspiring session of the week started. Catherine and Shaun from CHANGE UK, a user-led organisation of persons with learning disabilities, explained their work. CHANGE UK is fighting for equal rights and empowerment of persons with learning disabilities. CHANGE makes information accessible, easy to read and to understand. They do research, campaigns, and training on human rights, sex and relationships, parenting, on sexual abuse and disability hate crime.

Catherine and Philippa work with Suwang on the Ladder of Power

Catherine and Shaun are role models themselves. “We are Power Changers”, said Shaun.

It is important to advocate for girls, boys, women and men with learning disabilities to speak for themselves. CBM can promote this with our projects and we should invest in making our materials accessible and easy to understand for people with learning disabilities.

We discussed the power position of persons with learning disabilities within society, as they are perceived as being low on the ladder of power. In order to support people with learning disabilities to climb the ladder of power, we need to work together to open opportunities for attending mainstream schools, for work and for health. To do this, we all need to work on the following:

  • Attitudes need to be changed
  • Give voice to, and learn to listen
  • Accessing information
  • Peer learning
  • Teaching others to stand up for themselves
  • Training of parents for being good advocates and letting their children speak for themselves

Personal stories help to change attitudes. Catherine said, “Professionals like seeing us as labels and don’t see the person first”. Shaun added, “Our voices, our choices”.

Shawn and Catherine reflecting on easy-read messages

In the afternoon we put our efforts in adapting our development framework into easy- to-understand format. For example, how do we say in easy words: “Development co-operation is accessible and inclusive”?

This was a very useful exercise, since we realized that we tend to use a lot of jargon in our daily work. For information to be useful and accessible, messages need to be accurate, short, to the point, written in large font, no capitals, pale background, and include clear pictures.

Shawn and Catherine enjoy our easy read efforts

At the end of the day, all regions brainstormed on the way forward. In most regions we already started some initiatives and we need to start listening to the voice of persons with learning disabilities, develop our own capacities and facilitate situations where persons with learning disabilities empower themselves. As Mohan said, it is not that the voices are not there, “but we are not giving our ears to those voices”. We all agreed that we wanted to be held to account for making a change.

Shaun summed it up, “We need to be included at the beginning and forever. Our voices, our choices”.

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