Two Lives

My name is Shaun Webster. I live on my own.

If I get support, it is on my own terms.

The good thing about living on your own is that you get freedom to go out and go back home anytime you want. No one can tell you what to do. I can have my friends around to see me for drinks and anything else I want. I don’t need to ask anyone if this is ok, I feel safe.

I love going to the cinema. I like to watch sci-fi, horror, fantasy, true-life and comedies. Sometimes, I go to the cinema after work. Sometimes, I go on my own and sometimes I go with my friends and make a night out of it. I don’t need to ask people if I go to the cinema because I have the freedom to see any film I want, anytime I want. I’m not going to get into trouble.

If I have a drink, or two, or three… it’s no problem for me because no one else can tell me what to do.

The great thing about living on your own is that you can have a relationship. If I meet someone, I like to get to know the person. At some point, I might invite them back home. If we decide to have sex, or not, is nobody else’s business.  No one can tell us how to live our relationship.

I have a job in Leeds for 3 days a week and I work in England and around the world.

I am lucky.

When I am working abroad, I tell my family. They do worry but they can’t tell me what to do. Yes, my mother was very worried about me going to the West Bank recently. Yes, I was worried too! I got lots of information and after a lot of thinking and talking, I decided to go, even though my mother didn’t want me to go. I am so happy I am made that decision; if I didn’t, I would regret it. I co ran a workshop for 30 Palestinians over 4 days. I shared my knowledge and my experiences and I made new Palestinian friends, some of whom are people with learning disabilities; I learnt about another culture; I learnt to adapt my training and my attitudes. I feel like my world is expanding with every journey I make, so are my skills, my friendships and my knowledge.

Suzan is a woman with a learning disability who uses a wheelchair. She lives in a care home.

Suzan has no freedom where she lives because she always needs to ask the care home staff if she wants to go out or have some friends around. The care home staff think everything is a risk and Suzan isn’t allowed to do the things I do.

When I call Suzan, the staff is not very helpful, often they won’t pass the message on about her volunteering days. That is not fair.

I feel the care home staff needs to really respect Suzan and her life, more. She has the right to have freedom like everyone else, but, I feel the care home is like an institution: Suzan can’t cook for herself; she can’t wash her clothes; she can’t choose who her roommate is; she can’t go shopping when she wants; She can’t choose who wakes her up or what time to wake up; she can’t choose what she wants for her breakfast or dinner; she can’t go out to see her friends or have her friends come round.

Suzan’s world is very small and controlled. It will never get any bigger.

If Suzan has a relationship with any one, she can’t take them back home because there is a big issue around intimate relationships.

Suzan can’t choose to go to the cinema, or to the pub, or to meet up with her friends. The care home staff won’t let her have a job. Suzan will never have the chance to work abroad. She has no power to decide for herself,  everybody else has the power to make decisions for her.

What is most unfair: I know what Suzan’s life is like because I had a time in my life when I had no power to make decisions.

Suzan will never know what it’s like to have my life.

 

 

 

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