It’s Learning Disability Week, and this years theme is ‘Do You See Me?’ which is all about being seen, heard and valued.

We spoke with Keith, who attends one of our community hubs, to ask him what it means to be seen and to be given a voice to speak out.

Hello, my name is Keith. I have experienced many challenges over the years. I am a wheelchair user and have a learning disability, which has impacted me in many ways. I have been bullied at school, called names, and people have made assumptions about my abilities.

Last year, my mum became very poorly. My dad, who is 92 years old, was looking after both me and my mum and needed help. My social worker arranged for support workers to come to our home to assist me with my personal care and to chat with me to see if I was coping ok. I also attend one of Aspire’s Community Hub three times a week and I have received help from the staff there to speak out about my support, and to chat with my social worker about changes I wanted to make.

Mum passed away at Christmas, which was hard for both me and my dad. I realised that I needed to live a more independent life because Dad was struggling to support me at home. I now live in a fantastic apartment, with just enough support to help me live a more independent life. It is so nice there that my dad wants to get an apartment in the same place. He comes to visit me every day.

Learning Disability Week is all about being seen, being heard, and being valued. I like to think that this describes me. Although I have had some tough times, I am the ‘Supporting Me’ champion and speak out at the Learning Disability Partnership Board. I have just been voted in as the new Listening to People chairman. I was very proud and overwhelmed with all the votes I got from the people who attend the Listening to People meetings.

It feels really great to be part of Listening to People. I enjoy the group of people and feel like I can be open and honest with everybody, I also enjoy that I have a bell to get everyone’s attention. I like to hear what people have to say and I really enjoy being able to help my friends and give them a voice too.

At Aspire, we host a forum each month in our hubs, where we give feedback on the things that we have enjoyed doing and talk about what we would like to do in future, or places we would like to visit. I like to sometimes chair the forums and share my feedback from listening to people with friends at centre.  After talking about having the right to vote in our forums, I suggested we make a polling station in so we could encourage people to vote in the general election and to understand what will happen on the day. We will also use this to put suggestions in for the monthly forums.

I feel people with learning disabilities have more choice nowadays, for example easier to access for transport, but in the past people with learning disabilities were ignored and put on the back burner and forgot about.

Giving people like me a voice, and chances to be heard is really important and I’m glad that this is now possible.

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